An update on this story. Again, Minnesotan authorities must ensure that the Tarek ibn Ziyad outfit does not reconstitute itself under another name, or spawn similar projects with similar abuses.
"ACLU not expecting much money out of TiZA settlement," by Christopher Magan for Pioneer Press, March 7:
Days after agreeing to a $1.4 million settlement in Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy's bankruptcy case, the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota expects to recoup little of the millions it spent suing the now-defunct charter school.
They might be lucky to cover the price of a cheeseburger, but the moral victory is more important.
Meanwhile, the ACLU continues to pursue a 2009 civil lawsuit against the school's leader, Asad Zaman, alleging taxpayer money was used to teach religion.
The ACLU agreed last week to a $1.4 million settlement for attorneys' fees in the bankruptcy case that grew out of an ongoing lawsuit claiming that the charter schools in Inver Grove Heights and Blaine taught Islam in the classroom. The charter school had high test scores and a waiting list before legal costs and other pressure forced it to close last summer.
The ACLU had sought nearly $2.4 million, and Chuck Samuelson, attorney for the Minnesota chapter, said he doesn't expect the ACLU or its attorneys to come anywhere near recouping the $3 million spent on the case so far. The settlement deal is with the trustee now in control of TiZA's assets.
"First of all, there isn't going to be any money," said Samuelson, who said he would "fall down in a faint if it comes anywhere close" to the $1.4 million agreement.
TiZA has a long list of creditors with claims against the schools, many of whom likely will receive a fraction of what they are owed, Samuelson said.
"They're not broke, that's the thing," he said of TiZA. "This is a good headline, but if you drop down and look at the footnotes, we are talking about way less money."
John Hedback, the bankruptcy trustee for TiZA, said there are "substantial" assets from when the charter school entered bankruptcy, but not enough to cover claims for wages, rent, attorneys' fees and other expenses.
"Nobody is getting paid in full," Hedback said.
Zaman would not comment about the case except to say that the ACLU is being "very unreasonable."
Shamus O'Meara, TiZA's attorney, was not immediately available for comment.
The ACLU is willing to negotiate a settlement with Zaman, Samuelson said. "Reasonable people can come to a reasonable conclusion," he said.
But Samuelson has made it clear that the ACLU will continue the pursuit of claims that Zaman used taxpayer money to finance the teaching of religion, directly in violation of the establishment clause that separates church and state.
The ACLU's lawsuit included multiple claims that TiZA's leaders, its landlord and the Muslim American Society of Minnesota had "blurred" lines of control resulting in millions of taxpayer dollars going to religious groups.
Samuelson has said repeatedly that his group wants a "bright line" decision when it comes to whether the school taught Islam with taxpayer money.
"We feel there is still potential for that and that is why we are pursuing it," he said.
Such a decision would set a precedent for charter schools, he said."Charter schools are a great experiment," Samuelson said. "What we are concerned about is the charter school schemata is relaxing all the rules. We said you can do that, but you can't relax the Constitution."