In today’s Akron Beacon Journal, Doug Livingston managed to do what the state auditor, state superintendent of public instruction, member of State Board of Education of Ohio and the governor have not: Exposed hiring, financial and political irregularities at charter schools affiliated with Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish-born Islamic cleric.

Among the major findings:

  • Ohio taxpayers paid $914 million to Gulen-affiliated charter schools last year and scholl officials used much of the money to hire Turkish teachers and administrators with questionable credentials.
  • The Gulen schools have expanded In Ohio, despite state audits dating back to 2002 that found thousands of public dollars “illegally expended” to finance the U.S. citizenship process for Turkish employees — some fresh out of college with no classroom experience and broken English. The auditor also cited suspect wire transfers, totaling $36,000, and checks made out to “cash” to repay personal loans issued by individuals in Istanbul, Turkey.
  • Gulen charter schools in Ohio are run almost exclusively by persons of Turkish heritage, some of whom are not even U.S. citizens.
  • The schools’ non-profit affiliate, the Niagara Foundation, wines and dines politicians and provides junkets to Turkey. Among those who went along on a recent trip: State Rep. Cliff Rosenberger, a Clarksville Republican who was recently named Most Likely to Succeed House Speaker William Batchelder of Media, who is term limited.

The newspaper expose followed news reports that three Gulen-affiliated schools in Ohio were raided by the FBI last month as part of a multi-state probe. Federal agents have not disclosed the nature of the probe but did confirm that it originated in Cleveland.

The report also followed a request for an investigation by the State Board of Education of Ohio into an apparent cover-up of grade tampering and other irregularities at a Gulen school in Dayton. The request came from Dayton-area teacher Matthew Blair, a who said he personally witnessed the cheating while employed at the Horizon Science Adademy.

As Plunderbund reported last month, the apparent cover-up was launched by Dr. Richard Ross, Ohio’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Rather than properly examine Blair’s charges, Ohio’s top education officials launched a phony investigation, complete with instructions to those answering questions to keep their responses brief and “positive.” Translation: Dispute everything Mr. Blair said.

Since Mr. Blair spoke out, other former Gulen teachers soon followed.

According to Former teacher Tim Neary:

“Early on, there were lots of red flags: It was a  ‘science academy’ with no science labs. Turkish teachers didn’t do much teaching but made a lot more than the American teachers…..

“School administrators clearly lied about attendance. I never had a full class and they’d say the school had 97% attendance rate.  I guess that was an easy one to fudge. There was no oversight at all.

“Even though standardized tests are supposed to be taken, then locked in a secure place, that did not always occur – if ever.  All of the tests would go into one room, with an administrator behind a locked door. Nobody else got to see what was going on.’’

Former teacher Melissa Randoph was hired as a Title I reading instructor. But here is what happened instead:

“The first day of school, the principal, Mr. Ugur Zengince – he goes by Mr. Zen. – pulled me into his office and said, ’You can teach English, right? You are going to teach freshman and sophomore English’’ instead of being a Title I teacher. They still were collecting federal Title I money but had nobody performing Title I services.

“I was a brand new teacher in her first job. I did not feel as if I was in a position to say ‘no’. That first year, I was next door to a math classroom that was in constant chaos.  The class went through six teachers in one year, and it was clear that the kids had far more autonomy than should have been allowed. There was no support for teachers in terms of classroom management.

‘I can’t say for sure if I witnessed any tampering with test scores but I can tell you what I did see.  There was a person who ran the testing and after the tests were collected and supposed to be locked up I did see he and some others writing over the bubbles in the tests. I asked what they were doing because I was proctoring and I was part of the group administering the tests.  He said they were going over them in pencil to make sure they were dark enough.

“This was at least a violation of the testing protocol. Tests are to be collected, locked up and transferred to the location where they were be graded.”

Last school year, according the Beacon Journal, Ohio’s Turkish-run schools enrolled more than 6,700 students. In Cleveland alone, $12 million was transferred from the municipal school district to Concept schools. Academies also exist in Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, Euclid, Toledo and Youngstown.