Private charters turn a profit by taking in tax dollars like other schools, but then “streamlining” operations and “running their school like a business” (i.e., downsizing, union busting and low wages). The money saved on low wages can go into profits or, in the case of “nonprofit” charters, toward hefty executive salaries. Concept Schools, in Ohio, took this scam a step further by illegally financing the recruitment of low wage teachers from Turkey.
The federal government began investigating the company this week for the travel and immigration expenses it spent recruiting math and science teachers, according to a report by Tanisha Mallett on 10TV. According to the report, Concept Schools paid for travel and immigration expenses for 19 Turkish employees and some of their family members.
This is not Concept’s first run-in with the feds. They were investigated in 2008 for alleged abuses of H1-B visa rules. Between 2008 and 2009, U.S. immigration documents revealed that 53 H1-B visas were issued to employees of Horizon Schools throughout Ohio. H1-B visas are supposed to be issued only for workers who have specialized skills or for jobs in which domestic employees are unqualified. Horizon’s Vice President Salim Ucan has dishonestly claimed that he tried, but failed, to find teachers and investors locally. This is absurd. There are many Ohio teachers who have been laid off and who would appreciate a teaching job (though perhaps not in his sweatshops). Ucan probably could have even recruited TFA scabs for below union wages.
Auditors also found that payments were made to people who were never even employed by Horizon schools, including some who lived in Turkey. According to Chanel 5 news, a Dayton Horizon Science Academy has paid $600,000 over the last five years to the property's owner who lives in Turkey.
One thing that has been left out of most of the recent media coverage of this scandal is that Concept Schools are part of the Gulen charter schools network, which are run by Turkish scientists. (For more on Gulen, see here). Many believe that the Gulen schools have a hidden agenda of promoting Turkish nationalism and Islamic culture and values. While neither of these agendas are prohibited (there are plenty of parochial Christian and Jewish schools, while all U.S public schools promote U.S. nationalism), they should preclude the schools from receiving any public funding. In actuality, Horizon schools receive millions of dollars in federal and local funding.