OPINION: Melania’s Charter School Visit Puts A Spotlight On Gulen-Linked Schools In America
We all support First Lady Melania Trump’s efforts to highlight education, values and the end of cyber-bullying. Through her “Be Best” campaign, the first lady has been a strong, consistent voice in support of our children. Unfortunately, her recent visit to the “Dove School of Discovery” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has shed light on another important issue facing our nation.
Unbeknownst to the first lady, Dove is one of many charter schools in the United States linked to the “FETO” movement headed by Fetullah Gulen. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. With one hand — according to the Turkish government — Gulen directs attacks that have killed hundreds of innocent Turks. On the other hand, Gulen-linked schools receive taxpayer funding.
A 2017 CBS News report revealed that FETO operates about 136 charter schools in 28 states and that since 2010, those schools have received over $2.1 billion in taxpayer dollars. That amount is growing well over $750 million dollars every year. And while the schools paint a beautiful picture of educational discovery and opportunity, most Americans have not seen what else their tax dollars underwrite.
On July 15, 2016, U.S. citizens and the rest of the world saw precisely what that tuition money helps to fund.
On that day, Gulen followers in Turkey undertook a savage coup attempt that killed almost 300 innocent Turkish citizens. The Gulenists hijacked NATO jets and used NATO aircraft to strafe the Turkish Parliament with members of all political parties — majority and minority parties — inside. Gulen’s followers also rolled tanks against the masses of Turkish people who took to the streets in July of 2016 to stand up for their democratically-elected government and to fight back against ideologues and extremists who would subjugate the will of 80 million people to the will of one man living in Pennsylvania. Americans can see and read more about that failed coup here:
Despite the failed coup attempt of 2016, the people of Turkey — representing every party across the political spectrum — fought for their right to self-determination and they won. The coup plotters were overwhelmed, and order restored. Just last year, the people of Turkey again voted to support their democratic way of life, with over 88 percent of Turks going to the polls to cast their votes. International observers and the leaders of the main opposition parties called the elections free and fair. It was a triumph of peaceful democratic systems over the forces of terrorism.
While average Americans may not pay much attention to the internal affairs of Turkey, they should pay close attention to whether their tax dollars are being used to destabilize Turkey. Turkey is a strong and reliable ally in the war on terrorism and serves on the front line in the fight against ISIS, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. As NATO’s eastern border, Turkey has played a vital role in helping maintain stability in Iraq, Syria and throughout the Middle East. It is important for Americans to fully understand that an attack on Turkey’s flank is an attack on America’s flank.
The FETO forces in the United States are smooth and know how to present the façade of peaceful education. Yet, behind the façade there is a long trail of financial irregularities hounding the movement. A simple Google search will turn up many instances in which money is allegedly siphoned from these schools for other purposes. In state after state, fraud investigations have been undertaken to determine if and how much taxpayer money has been diverted away from education. Complaints have been filed with the U.S. Department of Education, and there are reports the FBI is investigating the Gulen movement.
First Lady Trump continues to serve us well by highlighting the extraordinary role charter schools play in our educational system. She has displayed her devotion and raised her voice for putting children first. In this instance, she has also done a major service by providing the United States with an opportunity to examine just how the Gulen movement uses its schools and American taxpayers as a funding source for less than reputable activities.
Adelle Nazarian (@AdelleNaz) is a documentary filmmaker. She worked previously as a journalist, including for Fox News.