Sunday, July 24, 2016

Turkish rivalry comes to San Jose amid allegations about Magnolia charter schools - Mercury News

Turkish rivalry comes to San Jose amid allegations about Magnolia charter schools - Mercury News:

Turkish rivalry comes to San Jose amid allegations about Magnolia charter schools

Turkey's heavy-handed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blamed a onetime ally now in exile in Pennsylvania for allegedly instigating a failed coup this month. But even before Erdogan declared a three-month state of emergency and arrested thousands, the Turkish government had been targeting imam Fethullah Gülen and his alleged followers in the U.S. -- including educators.
Gülen has been an outspoken critic of Erdogan but has denied involvement in the attempted coup. Still, Erdogan is seeking Gülen's extradition.
Erdogan also has gone after Magnolia Public Schools, which runs 10 high-performing charter schools focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
Earlier this year, when Magnolia applied to open a school in Fremont, Erdogan's government sent an attorney urging the school board to deny the request, alleging a nefarious link between charter-school groups, including Magnolia, and Gülen. Magnolia schools were founded by Turkish grad students in Los Angeles, and they have hired some teachers from Turkey. But Magnolia firmly denies any link to Gülen.
"He is fanning the flames of fear," said a Magnolia spokeswoman. "This is an attempt to firm up Erdogan's position in Turkey by discrediting opponents."
California State Auditor Elaine M. Howle just closed an audit of Magnolia and said that the group is financially sound. But earlier this summer, Magnolia announced it would close its successful Santa Clara charter school after a fruitless search for a new campus. The school just ended a tough year in East San Jose, unable to retain or attract enough students after being forced out last year from Santa Clara.
At the moment, Magnolia is not seeking to open more schools in the Bay Area. But in the fall, three of its 10 Southern California charter schools are up for renewal. Expect allegations of Gülen influence to resurface then.
Mike Honda tries to tie rival to Donald Trump
One of the speakers at last week's Republican National Convention caught the eye of Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, who came in behind challenger Ro Khanna in the primary election and is now fighting to save the seat he's held for eight terms.
While the congressman didn't directly attack Silicon Valley billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, he called on Khanna, a Fremont attorney, to explain why he accepts donations from such quarters.
"My question for Ro is will he denounce Donald Trump or continue aligning himself with Republican donors in order to get elected?" Honda asked in a statement the day Thiel gave a speech in Cleveland.
Thiel has donated $7,800 to Khanna since 2011, including $2,700 in the latest campaign. That doesn't make up much of the $1.5 million currently banked, but it's the thought that counts, said Honda's camp.
Honda has also accepted money from right-side donors, although perhaps none as high profile as Thiel. Hari Sevugan of the Khanna campaign called the attacks a sign that the incumbent is scraping the bottom.
"It's sad to see what desperate lengths Congressman Honda will go to now to keep his seat," said Sevugan, adding that Khanna has denounced Trump and endorsed and contributed to Hillary Clinton's campaign.
Khanna said in a statement that "it is true that Thiel has supported me and other Democrats such as Gavin Newsom." He added that "although I disagree with Peter on many issues, I am and will always be impressed by his founding PayPal and early backing of Facebook. I respect his courage tonight."
Sevugan slapped the Honda campaign for its reliance on political action committees, which account for about a quarter of the contributionsit has collected this season.
"If Mike Honda won't say 'no' to PACs and lobbyists," Sevugan said, "you know his attacks on Ro are as bankrupt as a Donald Trump casino."
When a charter school advocacy group learned earlier this month that online school operator K12 Inc. had reached a big settlement with the state over claims it manipulated attendance records and overstated its students' success, the organization responded by Turkish rivalry comes to San Jose amid allegations about Magnolia charter schools - Mercury News:
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