On Sunday night, “60 Minutes” returned its occasional focus to education, with a report on Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish cleric whose followers run the biggest charter school network in the country (by number of schools, about 130; Imagine Schools enrolls more students).
The schools focus on science and math and are often multi-million dollar buildings outfitted with leading technology. They are often lauded for their instruction and academic performance. (If you’ve always wanted to see Lesley Stahl ride a student-made hovercraft, now is your chance. Though it appears it’s NOT the same hovercraft The New York Times photographed for its deep-dive on Gulen schools last year.)
But they are also embroiled in controversy. “Federal authorities” are “looking into” immigration fraud and misuse of taxpayer money within the schools network, the report says. There are accusations that the schools are a front to get more of Gulen’s followers into the United States and that teachers are required to kick back some of their salary to Gulen-run organizations. The schools deny the accusations.
Absent from the piece is news that one of the network’s schools, Truebright Science Academy Charter School, will close after next school year, after Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission did not renew its charter. In a lengthy article outlining the accusations against the school, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported the charter was not renewed because of “academic performance, lack of certified staff, and high turnover of administrators.”
My colleague Sean Cavanagh, provides a summary and some additional context in a post about the segment on the Charters & Choice blog.
You can watch the segment above.