Friday, December 2, 2016

Did a California Charter School Group Fund an Effort to Overthrow the Turkish Government? | L.A. Weekly

Did a California Charter School Group Fund an Effort to Overthrow the Turkish Government? | L.A. Weekly:
Did a California Charter School Group Fund an Effort to Overthrow the Turkish Government?


More than a dozen times in a single year, Yunus Avcu, a 31-year-old man from Turkey, boarded a commercial flight to John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana carrying a laptop case loaded with cash — between $5,000 and $10,000, he claims. The story of how the money ended up in the bag is complicated, but Avcu says his role in it was simple. At the time, in 2013, Avcu worked as the business manager for the Lotus School for Excellence, a charter school in Aurora, Colorado, with an academic focus on science, math and technology. He says he booked the flights on the school's credit card and flew to Orange County about once a month, to drive the money to an office park in Westminster, which was the West Coast headquarters of what he refers to as simply "the organization."
The name on the lease at the office park was the Accord Institute for Education Research, a nonprofit that advertises itself as a provider of management and education services to charter schools throughout the Western United States.
Avcu says going to the organization was like going home. Turkish men occupied every seat in the conference room. The seats were filled by executives from the Accord Institute, as well as superintendents, principals and business managers from the charter schools that contracted Accord's services. Representatives from the various charters' boards had pooled together to found the Accord Institute, to build on and improve the academic model the charters had developed.
The schools paid hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to Accord for curriculum development and training, as well as administrative services, such as accounting, fiscal planning and grants management.
Avcu says that the executives and officers at the Accord Institute weren't exactly forthcoming with him about what the money he dropped off was for. But he says that, at the meetings, Turkey always seemed to him the overriding concern — trips to Turkey for American dignitaries, Turkish cultural dinners for local officials, and the guarantee that Turkish majorities on the charter schools' boards would hire Turkish principals, who would in turn sponsor the H1B visas for Turkish teachers to come to the United States to work — and, according to Avcu, to make the all-important donations from their salaries to the organization.
According to Avcu, that was the source of the cash he carried. He says that the 11 Turkish teachers and administrators at the Lotus school were obliged to hand it over to him the first week of every month.
Avcu says these payments weren't voluntary; he says the organization also obligated him to return about 40 percent of his own salary every month. He says Accord executives made an Excel spreadsheet at the start of the school year with the salary of every Turkish employee at every school in one column and the amount of money each would owe in another. Avcu says executives determined the amount each Turkish teacher had to return to the organization, based on the employee's seniority, education level, marital status and number of children. "The organization was taking the money from the people," Avcu says. "If you don't pay this money, they don't employ you. If you reject or refuse to pay Did a California Charter School Group Fund an Effort to Overthrow the Turkish Government? | L.A. Weekly:


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