Thursday, December 26, 2013

Education Hotspot: Turkey?

Pack your bags, readers! Ever since Sun-Times columnist Dan Mihalopoulos exposed the intertwined stories of education, profit, and political overseas trips, we've been looking for our passports and wondering what the Turkish translation for cha-ching! is. 

We want to pad our retirements and offer our services to the newly-crowned global education profiteering capital of the world: Turkey. Since Turkey is not even a country with a PISA rating, we thought it the unlikeliest of education destination$. But, speaker of the Illinois House Mike Madigan, his corporate-raider son Andrew, and numerous other Illinois Democrats have made many trips there. Worry not, darlings, for once the taxpayers did not foot the bill for Mike Madigan's four visits. Instead, the Niagara Foundationwhose honorary president is noted Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulendid. 

Fetullah Gulen not a household name yet? Never heard of the Niagara Foundation? Good thing Illinois lawmakers have taken such a keen intere$t. After all, Fetullah Gulen has the distinction of being associated with the largest charter network in the United States while simultaneously trying to take down the Turkish government. In Chicago, the Gulen-inspired schools--Chicago Math & Science Academy and the Horizon Academy McKinley Park--are part of the Concept School Network which hopes to expand into several other Chicago neighborhoods in 2014. 

Did the Niagara Foundation and the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce show Illinois lawmakers priceless architecture from antiquity through the Ottoman Empire? Or, did they just get down to business and talk cold, hard American dollars Turkish lira? We're guessing it's the latter, because upon return from these trips the Gulen-inspired charter school network, Concept, got the green light to open their schools in Chicago. They also got a nice bonus, 33% more funding than other schools thanks to the OK from the Illinois State Charter School Commission. Cha-ching!

Chicago Public Schools initially said no to these schools due to their uneven performance, but luckily the appointee-laden Illinois State Charter School Commission said yes, or evet as the Turks would say, to this charter-seeking organization. At the recent charter schools hearing at CPS headquarters, Concept bused in rent-a-supporters who were unsure of who or what they were supporting. Positively gras$root$!

While most Chicagoans would not readily equate Chicago with Turkey, they bare a closer resemblance than you might think. The unfolding political drama in Turkey has its roots in extensive political and corporate corruption much like daily life in Cook County. It seems that members of Turkey's current government have resigned because their sons were caught up in an anti-graft sting (An anti-graft sting? Has Chicago tried this?). Pressure for this crackdown is coming from U.S.-exiled Gulen, who critics charge with trying to establish a parallel state within Turkey. We can see why the Illinois Charter Commission and Mike Madigan are so enamored with Gulen since they are trying to establish a parallel education system in Chicago.

Additionally, as fellow blogger Rogers Park Neighbors for Public Schools points out, should the ownership of American public schools be associated with the political and religious implications of Turkey's government? 

Further, what does Rahm Emanuel think? While he has seen fit to establish a task force to drum up tenants for the newly vacant Dominick's stores, he has remained entirely silent on the foreign interests encroaching upon our public schools.

Readers, do you have any experience with Concept schools? What about Rahm Emanuel and CPS's silence on Concept? Leave a comment or email us at 

1 comment:

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