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August 01, 2016

Turkish Complaint Prompts Tex. Review of Charter Schools

Texas education officials are looking into the operations of a nonprofit charter-school chain following a complaint about the organization by the government of Turkey, the Houston Chronicle and The Wall Street Journal report. Turkish officials have linked Harmony Public Schools, the state’s largest charter chain, to Fethullah Gülen, an expatriate Muslim cleric whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims orchestrated last month’s failed coup in Turkey.

The Texas Education Agency notified Houston-based Harmony last week that it is reviewing allegations that the school network funneled contracts to vendors with ties to its leadership and misused state funds by guaranteeing bond debt for another charter system in Arkansas. A lawyer for Harmony denied the charges, leveled in a complaint filed in May by a Washington law firm retained by Turkey’s government.

Mr. Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, has denied any involvement in the coup attempt. Harmony CEO Soner Tarim said the network, which educates some 31,000 students across 48 schools in Texas, “has no affiliation of any kind with any religious or social organizations or movements.”

Since the July 15 coup attempt, Turkey has put pressure on officials in several other countries to close schools and other charitable institutions associated with Mr. Gülen’s “Hizmet” movement, according to Reuters.