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Texas schools -- is this normal?

 
 
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 09:25 am
My great niece (M) is in middle school in Texas.

After returning to school on Monday she became upset with something while at school and was sent to the counselor's office. She wouldn't tell them what was wrong and started crying. The school called her mom (K, my niece) to come and get her.

K discussed with the counselor that her daughter's grades have been falling over the year and that she seemed uninterested in going to school. The counselor immediately suggested transferring M to a different school - a charter school.

The recommended school is a Harmony School so I've been reading up on them and, frankly, they seem a little weird. I'm not really understanding why this type of school, that defines itself as "strict" and "rigorous" and "focused on testing" would be recommended for a kid that is having problems in school. I'm not really understanding why M's school wouldn't be trying to figure out what's wrong with their own school instead of immediately suggesting transfer. Is it common to just "pass the buck" so to speak?

I'm super surprised that the Harmony Schools have gained such a foothold in Texas in the first place since they're run by the Cosmos Foundation and they've been investigated several times. It seems that they have lost their charters in several states. What's the story with these schools?

Thanks for any help or info you can share.



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Type: Question • Score: 5 • Views: 2,576 • Replies: 25

 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 09:36 am
I live in Texas and I know charter schools are being strongly pushed as part of an ongoing defunding of public schools movement. But I don't know if there is a tie in with the story you are telling. My children are long out of school, so I have not been keeping informed.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 09:50 am
@edgarblythe,
The public IS funding these charter schools.

Like most charter schools, Harmony schools are run as non-profits but funded by taxes. There isn't a whole lot of oversight on how the money is spent and usually someone is getting rich.
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 09:59 am
@boomerang,
Yes, they are funding the charter schools, as part of the effort to defund public schools.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 09:59 am
Quote:
The United States is the only country in the world where the Gülen movement has been able to establish schools funded to a great extent by the host country's taxpayers, mostly by establishing charter schools. In June 2011, New York Times shed light on schools in the United States, revealing that "Gulen followers have been involved in starting similar schools around the country — there are about 120 in all, mostly in urban centers in 25 states, one of the largest collections of charter schools in America."[34]

Federal authorities are investigating several of the movement's schools for forcing employees to send part of their paychecks to Turkey. In March 2011, Philadelphia Enquirer reported that Federal Agencies including "FBI and the Departments of Labor and Education - were investigating whether some employees were kicking back part of their salaries to a Muslim movement founded by Gulen known as Hizmet."[35]

The FBI has investigated Concept Schools, which operate 16 Horizon Science Academies across Ohio, on the suspicion that they illegally used taxpayer money to pay immigration and legal fees for people they never even employed, an Ohio ABC affiliate discovered. The FBI's suspicion was confirmed by state auditors. Concept Schools repaid the fees for their Cleveland and Toledo schools shortly before the ABC story broke, but it's unclear whether they have repaid—or can repay—the fees for their other schools.[36] In December 2013, the FBI raided another Gülen-linked charter school, Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School, located in Louisiana. The investigation, initially for tax-related purposes, led to the discovery of a business link between the school and Harmony Public Schools, another Gülen-linked charter school district based in Texas that makes up the state's largest charter operator.[37]

Some commentators argue that schools are simply moneymakers for the Gülen movement and are the main avenue for building the Gülen community in the United States. In the United States, they obtain a substantial amount of private, state, and federal funding (in addition to tuition fees), and they have proved effective at soliciting private donations.[36]


0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 10:01 am
Note: I have nothing against Islam, my concern is with the financial impropriety.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 10:19 am
@boomerang,
My first take when I started reading this is just what you said "I'm not really understanding why M's school wouldn't be trying to figure out what's wrong with their own school instead of immediately suggesting transfer"

I am not at all familar with the schools you are talking about, but if I were this kid's mom, I would have asked shouldn't we be figuring out why my daughter is having these problems? Then at the suggestion of the other school - I would have asked how will this solve her problems?

I wouldn't move her in any case, until they worked out what is causing these problems.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 11:24 am
@Linkat,
Yeah -- it just seems so weird that they aren't concerned about what is causing the problem in the first place. I have a feeling that she's getting picked on as her family is a little unconventional and she's a little offbeat herself. Middle school girls are merciless.

It also seems weird in that M is really, REALLY into art and the school they recommended has absolutely no art program.

What kind of "counselor" does this?

K is really fed up with them. M is spending the day today as a visiting student at that school.

The administration of these schools seems very shady:

Quote:
Two schools, located in Texas, have been accused of sending school funds—which are supplied by the government—to Gülen-inspired organizations. Last year, The New York Times reported that the some schools were funneling some $50 million in public funds to a network of Turkish construction companies, among them the Gülen-related Atlas Texas Construction and Trading. The schools had hired Atlas to do construction, the paper said, though other bidders claimed in lawsuits that they had submitted more economical bids. Folwell Dunbar, an official at the Louisiana Department of Education, has accused Atlas's vice president, Inci Akpinar, of offering him a $25,000 bribe to keep mum about troubling conditions at the Abramson Science and Technology School in New Orleans. Dunbar sent a memo to department colleagues, the Times-Picayune reported, noting that "Akpinar flattered him with 'a number of compliments' before getting to the point: 'I have twenty-five thousand dollars to fix this problem: twenty thousand for you and five for me.' " Abramson is operated by the Pelican Foundation, which is linked to the Gülen-inspired Cosmos Foundation in Texas—which runs the two Texas schools.[36]

Utah's Beehive Science and Technology Academy was $337,000 in debt, according to a financial probe by the Utah Schools Charter Board. The Deseret News tried to figure out where all this taxpayer money had gone. "In a time of teacher layoffs, Beehive has recruited a high percentage of teachers from overseas, mainly Turkey," the newspaper reported. "Many of these teachers had little or no teaching experience before they came to the United States. Some of them are still not certified to teach in Utah. The school spent more than $53,000 on immigration fees for foreigners in five years. During the same time, administrators spent less than $100,000 on textbooks, according to state records." Reports have also claimed that the school board was almost entirely Turkish.[36]


Charter schools give me the heebie-jeebies because they always seem to siphon public funds into private pockets. It looks like it's a total free-for-all in Texas and Louisiana.
Rockhead
 
  3  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 11:27 am
@boomerang,
my initial impression is that the counselor may make some extra cash on referrals...
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 11:31 am
@Rockhead,
You make an interesting point!
0 Replies
 
gungasnake
 
  0  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 11:52 am
@boomerang,
Quote:
It also seems weird in that M is really, REALLY into art and the school they recommended has absolutely no art program.


The Harmony/Cosmos schools are supposely math/tech intensive. Sounds like a formula for turning the kid into a highschool dropout.
0 Replies
 
gungasnake
 
  0  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 11:53 am
@Rockhead,
Quote:
my initial impression is that the counselor may make some extra cash on referrals...


That's the basic principle for figuring things which don't figure logically, follow the money...
0 Replies
 
Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 12:52 pm
They tried charter schools in Ohio about a decade ago--most of them were closed down within a year or two because of financial improprieties. Usually, the money was going into the pockets of the individual or the group which had started the schools. The whole concept has scam written all over it.

I don't know if this link will work, but here goes: Forbes Magazine article on the charter schools gravy train.

(The link seems to work--you may have to click through to the article. It states that among other irregularities, one company operating 9% of Ohio's charter schools, a company which contributes heavily to Republican politicians, has received 38% of new money earmarked for charter schools.)
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 01:54 pm
@edgarblythe,
edgarblythe wrote:

Yes, they are funding the charter schools, as part of the effort to defund public schools.

Well...

Charter schools are publicly funded, and are required to provide the same resources for special needs kids that the normal independent school districts do.

Whether the eventual goal is to remove public education altogether, I can't say, but charter schools do provide an option if you don't like the local school district.

Disclaimer: My children are in a charter school. The charter school is allowed to remove children who are consistent discipline problems, which weighed heavily in our decision to select the school.

Our current school is run by Jubilee, and we're very happy with it so far. The other charter school we attended was more like what y'all are talking about; it seemed to be designed as a way to provide salaries for the board's cronies.
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 02:11 pm
@Setanta,
The link worked fine. That was an interesting article. This whole thing with M is kind of pissing me off based on what I'm reading today.
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 02:22 pm
@DrewDad,
I'm sure there are good charter schools but I'm really suspicious of the one's run by big companies. These Harmony schools smell really fishy.

Quote:
Charter schools are publicly funded, and are required to provide the same resources for special needs kids that the normal independent school districts do.


Hmmmm. Not really. They can typically skim off most disabled kids or steer them back to traditional school by citing lack of resources.
DrewDad
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 02:40 pm
@boomerang,
boomerang wrote:
Hmmmm. Not really. They can typically skim off most disabled kids or steer them back to traditional school by citing lack of resources.

The shady ones will try to steer special needs kids away, but if you know your rights you can make them comply.
0 Replies
 
Linkat
 
  2  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 03:25 pm
What I find odd is that around these parts Charter Schools tend to be better -maybe because in general they tend to be in the "bad" areas. In other words then tend to be in place of the schools that are doing poorly and/or have drug and other issues. So people really try to get their kids in Charter schools other than the other regular public schools.
dalehileman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 03:46 pm
@boomerang,
Slightly OT, Boom, so new thread:

http://able2know.org/topic/231005-1
0 Replies
 
boomerang
 
  1  
Reply Thu 9 Jan, 2014 04:22 pm
@Linkat,
This is from the article Setanta linked:

Quote:
In part, it’s the tax code that makes charter schools so lucrative: Under the federal “New Markets Tax Credit” program that became law toward the end of the Clinton presidency, firms that invest in charters and other projects located in “underserved” areas can collect a generous tax credit — up to 39% — to offset their costs.

So attractive is the math, according to a 2010 article by Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News, “that a lender who uses it can almost double his money in seven years.”


They build the schools in "underserved" areas -- bad neighborhoods -- in order to get the tax credits.
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