Are some U.S. charter schools helping fund controversial Turkish cleric's movement?
As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson travels to Turkey on Thursday, he’ll want to talk about the fight against ISIS. But the Turks want to talk about a controversial Turkish religious scholar: Fethullah Gulen.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan accuses Gulen of being behind a bloody coup attempt in the country last July. Gulen, who lives in the United States, denies he was involved. Now the Turkish government is also lobbying the Trump administration to extradite Gulen back to Turkey.
Over the past two decades, Gulen’s Turkish followers have opened up taxpayer-funded charter schools in the U.S. Some parents have expressed concern about the connection to the Gulen movement, while others don’t seem to mind. But CBS News has learned the FBI is investigating whether Gulen’s followers have skimmed money from those schools in order to fund his movement in Turkey. A senior State Department official believes Gulen-linked charities and educational institutions in the U.S. look “a lot like the ways in which organized crime sets itself up... to hide money for money laundering.”
During the violent coup attempt that shook Turkey last July, hundreds were killed as rogue military tanks rolled into the streets of Istanbul. But Gulen, who the Turkish government blames for inciting it, has lived in a Pennsylvania compound for 16 years.
Gulen’s followers run publicly-funded science and math-focus charter schools in the United States. By our count, they’ve opened 136 charter schools in 28 states, operating on more than $2.1 billion taxpayer dollars since 2010.
But former teachers at those schools have told CBS News there is a scheme by Gulen’s followers in the U.S. to take advantage of the American charter school system and fund Gulen’s movement.
Ersin Konkur was once a follower of Gulen. He worked as a math teacher at schools founded by Gulen supporters in New York and Texas. But he said school officials made a special demand of the Turkish teachers who worked there: a kick-back from their taxpayer-funded salary.
“They’d force you to give some of that money back to them?” CBS News correspondent Margaret Brennan asked.
“Yes,” Konkur responded.
“Were you writing checks?”
“They were asking cash. But in my last two years, I paid some of them in check,” Konkur said, adding that he’s paid “maybe a lot more than $20,000” in total to the Is Turkish religious scholar Fethullah Gulen funding his movement abroad through U.S. charter schools? - CBS News: