It is a commonplace saying, but one that most of us ignore: If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This applies in spades to a proposal under active consideration by the school board in Virginia's Loudoun County. It would use taxpayer funds to create a charter school to equip the children of that Washington exurb with enhanced skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. Ostensibly, they will thus be equipped to compete successfully in the fields expected to be at the cutting edge of tomorrow's workplace.
What makes this initiative, dubbed the Loudoun Math and IT Academy, too good to be true? Let's start with what is acknowledged about the proposed school.
The academy's board is made up of a group of male Turkish expatriates. One of them, Fatih Kandil, was formerly the principal of the Chesapeake Science Point Public Charter School in Anne Arundel County, Md. Another is Ali Bicak, the board president of the Chesapeake Lighthouse Foundation, which owns Chesapeake Science Point and two other charter schools in Maryland. The Loudoun Math and IT Academy applicants expressly claim that Chesapeake Science Point will be the model for their school.
The taxpayers of Loudoun County and the school board elected to represent them should want no part of a school that seeks to emulate Chesapeake Science Point, let alone be run by the same people responsible for that publicly funded charter school. For one thing, Chesapeake Science Point has not proved to be the resounding academic success the applicants claim. It does not appear anywhere in the acclaimed U.S. News & World Report lists of high-performing schools in Maryland, let alone nationwide -- even in the subsets of mathematics or charter schools.
What is more, according to public documents chronicling Anne Arundel County Public Schools' dismal experience with Chesapeake Science Point, there is significant evidence of chronic violations of federal, state and local policies and regulations throughout its six years of operations, with little or inconsistent improvement, reflecting deficiencies in fiscal responsibility and organizational viability.
Why, one might ask, would applicants for a new charter school cite so deeply problematic an example as their proposed institution? This brings us to aspects of this proposal that are not acknowledged.
Chesapeake Science Point is just one of five controversial schools with which Mr. Kandil has been associated. He was previously the director at the Horizon Science Academy in Dayton, Ohio; the principal at the Wisconsin Career Academy in Milwaukee and at the Baltimore Information Technology Academy in Maryland; and one of the applicants in a failed bid to establish the First State Math and Science Academy in Delaware.
These schools have something in common besides their ties to the peripatetic Fatih Kandil. They have all been "inspired" by and in other ways are associated with Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish supremacist and imam with a cultlike following of up to 6 million Muslims in Turkey and elsewhere around the world. More to the point, Imam Gulen is the reclusive and highly autocratic leader of a global media, business, "interfaith dialogue" and education empire said to be worth many billions that is run from a compound in the Poconos.
This empire -- including its roughly 135 charter schools in this country and another 1,000 abroad -- and its adherents have come to be known as the Gulen Movement. Those associated with it, in this country at least, are assiduously secretive about their connections to Imam Gulen and his enterprise. For example, the Loudoun Math and IT Academy applicants, their spokeswoman and other apologists have repeatedly misled the Loudoun school board, claiming that these Turkish gentlemen and their proposed school have nothing to do with Imam Gulen.
There are several possible reasons for such professions. For one, the Gulen schools are reported to be under investigation by the FBI. A growing number of them -- including Chesapeake Science Point -- have also come under critical scrutiny from school boards and staff around the country. In some cases, they have actually lost their charters for, among other reasons, chronic financial and other mismanagement and outsourcing U.S. teachers' jobs to Turks.
The decisive reason for the Gulenist lack of transparency, however, may be due to their movement's goals and modus operandi. These appear aligned with those of another secretive international organization that also adheres to the Islamic doctrine known as Shariah and seeks to impose it worldwide -- the Muslim Brotherhood. Both seek to accomplish this objective by stealth in what the Brotherhood calls "civilization jihad" and Imam Gulen's movement describes as "jihad of the word."
This practice enabled the Gulenists to help transform Turkey from a reliable, secular Muslim NATO ally to an Islamist state deeply hostile to the United States -- one aligned with other Islamic supremacists, from Iran to the Muslim Brotherhood to Hamas to al Qaeda. Fethullah Gulen's followers clearly don't want us aware of the obvious dangers posed by their penetration of our educational system and influence over our kids.
The good news is that members of the Loudoun County school board have a code of conduct that reads in part: "I have a moral and civic obligation to the nation which can remain strong and free only so long as public schools in the United States of America are kept free and strong." If the board members adhere to this duty, they will reject a seductive Loudoun Math and IT Academy proposal that is way too "good" to be true.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy (SecureFreedom.org), a columnist for The Washington Times and host of Secure Freedom Radio on WRC-AM (1260).