A group of three publicly financed charter schools in Georgia run by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Turkish imam, have come under scrutiny after they defaulted on bonds and an audit found that the schools improperly granted hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to businesses and groups, many of them with ties to the Gulen movement.
The audit released Tuesday by the Fulton County Schools near Atlanta found the schools made purchases like T-shirts, teacher training and video production services from organizations with connections to school officials or Gulen followers. Those included more than $500,000 in contracts since January 2010 with the Grace Institute, a foundation whose board has included school leaders. In some cases the awards skirted bidding requirements, the audit said.
"I would just question how those vendors were selected when price in many instances wasnt part of the decision making, said the Fulton County superintendent, Robert Avossa, who criticized the schools for conflicts of interest. "And those are public dollars.
Gulen followers run more than 120 charter schools nationwide, making the loosely affiliated network one of the nations largest public charter school operators. Despite clear connections, the schools generally deny any affiliation with the Gulen movement, a powerful religious and political force in Turkey whose leader, Mr. Gulen, views establishing schools as part of his mission. While some of the charter schools have been praised for their academic performance, their business practices have raised questions. (...)(...more)