Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taking A Good, Long Look At The Concept Charter Schools

Here's the video from Monday night's webinar: Gulen 101, Session Two, With Sharon Higgins. It was a comprehensive look at the local interconnectivity between the various nodes of the Gulen Movement and Concept Schools, the group that runs three publicly funded charter schools in Chicago and many more across the region. [For an interesting update on this topic, check out Sharon Higgins' post about the webinar.]

For the life of me I do not know how the state charter commission could so blithely discount the evidence.  Remember this? I hope they kept written records of their research because it seems likely that we'll be requesting their reports soon. Basic research, basic due diligence, basic critical thinking skills--- these are the only things required to figure out that there are multiple connections between this transnational social/political/religious movement and the three charter schools in Chicago, that these connections are purposely blurred to keep people uninformed, and that this phenomenon is consistent with the established patterns of behavior of the Gulen Movement worldwide.

The financial contributions to Congressman Danny Davis, which Sharon talks about at the end of the webinar, are really quite something. We've already contacted ISBE for more information. Congressman Davis is no stranger to international men of mystery; you will recall that he was present at the ceremony in which Sun Myung Moon proclaimed himself the Messiah, and then of course there was the Tamil Tigers episode. I like Danny Davis; I think it's very likely that he simply doesn't always look very hard at the people trying to cultivate influence with him, and in Illinois, that can be said of many, many people.

Nevertheless, we'll be checking to see if the congressman involved himself with the successful Concept appeal to the state charter school commission. It seems fitting that these schools-- which are connected to a secretive social movement, should be inserted into Chicago through an obscure, appointed committee that most citizens aren't even aware of. If they received assistance through the efforts of a politician they've cultivated, that would just be icing on the cake.

Nobody is using alarming rhetoric in this webinar, nor have I used any alarming rhetoric in the many posts I've written on the topic. What we're doing is pointing out in a clearest terms a phenomenon that plainly exists, that needs public discussion, sunlight, and a response from whoever it is that's blocking the charter bills in the Senate Education Committee, bills which expire on Friday. Again, here are the people on that committee:

There is more than one senator on this committee who'd rather not see any action on eliminating the state charter commission. If it you've called your senator and she hasn't told you explicitly that she's for it, then she's against it. They want to block it-- it's bothersome legislation in the minds of some very deep-pocketed people.

However, for the public interest, the charter bills before the Senate Education Committee are excellent and necessary. (UPDATE 9:00PM Looks like HB 4237 is on life support over in the House; hopefully someone will think of a way to let voters have a say in the types of public schools built in public school districts, and not let this decision rest in the hands of an appointed board of charter "enthusiasts" who have never faced voters. I believe the bill I support HB 6005, is still alive and ready for a vote.)*

Finally, just to reiterate, the theme of the webinar is that there is an undeniable relationship and interconnectivity between the Gulen Movement and the largest charter school network in the United States, which includes the Concept schools in the midwest; that the Movement is an active political partisan in an unfolding foreign drama, that it is secretive by nature and clearly religious, and connected to a specific theology. The reports in the world press of the complex nature of the Gulen Movement in Turkey and around the globe are various and in a multitude of credible cases, disturbing. What needs to be hashed out in the United States is whether all of these things are okay with us. They certainly are unprecedented in the arena of American public education. Are our schools now supposed to be a funding/outreach arm for every foreign organization? Or just this one.

While it's unprecedented, it isn't surprising. The opaque-by-design nature of the charter school sector, the resistance to any kind of minimal oversight, the ease with which the charter sector can thrive in an environment in which public education is excoriated by a constant drumbeat of misinformation--- from the Secretary of Education on down--- these things are the perfect atmosphere for hidden agendas.

It all needs sunlight and basic regulation--- the whole sector, not just the Gulen-linked schools. But in these particular schools, we also need to look at the idea of how important it is that people tell the truth when they're in a position of public trust.  We cherish freedom of association here; we also cherish freedom of religion and speech, and all of these things must be protected, even and especially for the followers of Fethullah Gulen.  But this confusing, disturbing situation we see in this webinar--- it's caused by secrecy and disinformation. I get the reasons; it's just that I don't think it's right. Not here, not in the private governance of public schools.

New to the topic? Check out some of my other posts.

*Linda Chapa La Via had a tough day in the House, but she said something important at the end of the day: “I apologize, but the frustrating thing is we’re here for the children—not an association, not a hidden agenda—we’re here for the children of the state of Illinois,” she said. “And what’s frustrating is we have outside powers putting things in people’s heads that aren’t 100 percent true.” She's talking about Christian Mitchell's head, which appears to be full of talking points, while his wallet, on the other hand, is full of Stand for Children money, which is outside money.

I have developed more respect for Linda Chapa La Via than really anyone else in the House, and I've had huge disagreements with her in the past. 

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