The FBI conducted raids on June 4 at 19 Concept charter schools in Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The search warrants were executed in connection with an “ongoing white-collar crime matter,” the Sun-Times quoted Vicki Anderson, a special agent in the Cleveland FBI office that’s leading the probe, as saying. The US Department of Education and the Federal Communications Commission were also involved.
Last year, the Chicago school board approved two new charter schools to be run by Concept Schools, but two were already in operation in the state. Charters for the two existing schools were rejected by the board the year before, but that decision was overruled by the Illinois State Charter School Commission.
Concept runs schools in Chicago, Peoria, St Louis, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and Michigan, but most of their schools are located in Ohio (Toledo, Columbus, Cleveland, Youngstown, and Dayton). The headquarters is in DesPlaines, Ill. The group has been associated with the Turkish Gulen movement, which has ties to several charter schools in several different states. For a list of schools, including two in Maryland and four in Illinois, see the website, here.
The schools have posted a few academic awards. The Chicago Math and Science Academy, for example, made the list of Honor Roll Schools from the Illinois State Board of Education in 2008, and two schools in Ohio, the HSA Columbus High School and the Horizon Cleveland High School, were named national Blue Ribbon schools by the US Department of Education in 2008 and 2012, respectively. The school model focuses on education in the STEM disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Warrants are sealed, but some info is coming to light
Some bloggers, such as Tim Furman, here, have suggested authorities may be looking for evidence of visa fraud. The organization is known for obtaining H1B visas from the US government for teachers, including teachers of English, to support Turkish partner organizations. Some people also believe the federal and state money funneled into the schools supports an Islamist campaign to take over the government of Turkey or turn it into a nation that follows Sharia law.
The US schools have become infamous for their failure to promote women (video), their failure to hire US citizens to work even in low-end jobs, and their failure to be transparent when it comes to reporting the finances or academic progress of their students.
For more information, please refer to Doug Martin’s eye-opening book, Hoosier School Heist, available here, and pay special attention to pp 114-124.
The FBI also raided charter schools affiliated with the Gulen movement in Louisiana a year and a half ago, as seen here. Even going back to 2011, reported in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, here, charter schools associated with the Gulen movement in Turkey have been suspected of criminal activity in the US.