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FBI Raids of Charter School Operators Jump

Are the Feds finally catching on that all is not well in the charter school movement?
 
 
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Photo Credit: Mark Van Scyoc / Shutterstock.com

 

There’s been a flood of local news stories in recent months about FBI raids on charter schools all over the country.

From Pittsburgh to Baton Rouge, from  Hartford to Cincinnatti to Albuquerque, FBI agents have been busting into schools, carting off documents, and making arrests leading to high-profile indictments.

  • "The troubled Hartford charter school operator FUSE was dealt another blow Friday when FBI agents served it with subpoenas to a grand jury that is examining the group's operations. When two Courant reporters arrived at FUSE offices on Asylum Hill on Friday morning, minutes after the FBI's visit, they saw a woman feeding sheaves of documents into a shredder."The Hartford Courant, July 18, 2014
     
  • "The FBI has raided an Albuquerque school just months after the state started peering into the school’s finances. KRQE News 13 learned federal agents were there because of allegations that someone may have been taking money that was meant for the classroom at the Southwest Secondary Learning Center on Candelaria, near Morris in northwest Albuquerque..." --KRQE News 13, August 1 2014
     
  • "Wednesday evening's FBI raid on a charter school in East Baton Rouge is the latest item in a list of scandals involving the organization that holds the charter for the Kenilworth Science and Technology School. . . .Pelican Educational Foundation runs the school and has ties to a family from Turkey. The school receives about $5,000,000 in local, state, and federal tax money. . . .the FBI raided the school six days after the agency renewed the Baton Rouge school’s charter through the year 2019."The Advocate, January 14, 2014
     
  • "The state of Pennsylvania is bringing in the FBI to look into accusations that a Pittsburgh charter school [Urban Pathways Charter School] misspent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars on luxuries such as fine-dining and retreats at exclusive resorts and spas." --CBS News November 12,  2013
     
  • "COLUMBUS, OH—A federal grand jury has indicted four people, alleging that they offered and accepted bribes and kickbacks as part of a public corruption conspiracy in their roles as managers and a consultant for Arise! Academy, a charter school in Dayton, Ohio." –FBI Press Release, June 2014

What’s going on here?

Charter schools are such a racket, across the nation they are attracting special attention from the FBI, which is working with the Department of Education’s inspector general to look into allegations of charter-school fraud.

One target, covered in an  August 12  story in The Atlantic, is the secretive Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who runs the largest charter-school chain in the United States.

The Atlantic felt compelled to note, repeatedly, that it would be xenophobic to single out the Gulen schools and their mysterious Muslim founder for lack of transparency and the misuse of public funds.

“It isn’t the Gulen movement that makes Gulen charters so secretive,” writes The Atlantic’s Scott Beauchamp, “it’s the charter movement itself.”

Kristen Buras, associate professor of education policies at Georgia State University, agrees.

“Originally, charter schools were conceived as a way to improve public education,” Buras says. “Over time, however, the charter school movement has developed into a money-making venture.”

Over the last decade, the charter school movement has morphed from a small, community-based effort to foster alternative education into a national push to privatize public schools, pushed by free-market foundations and big education-management companies. This transformation opened the door to profit-seekers looking for a way to cash in on public funds.

In 2010, Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. has been an ALEC member,  declared K-12 public education "a $500 billion sector in the U.S. alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed."