Three charter schools in Los Angeles that are linked to the Fetullah Terror Organization (FETO) could be shut down for bringing in teachers from Turkey, the Los Angeles Times newspaper reported Wednesday.
The FETO-linked schools — the largest charter schools networks in the U.S. — are usually gathered under umbrella organizations and are managed through foundations. There are about 140 schools in total across the country.
Residing in Pennsylvania since 1999, FETO’s ringleader and alleged mastermind behind a recent failed coup in Turkey, Fetullah Gulen is known as the man who controls the schools and the $500 million annual income he gets for them from the U.S. government, according to U.S. media reports.
Approximately 10 of the schools are in California, operating under the name Magnolia.
According to the newspaper, the Magnolia schools has for years relied heavily on using temporary work visas to import Turkish teachers.
The five-year operating agreements for the staff, however, at the Magnolia Science Academy 1 in Reseda, Magnolia Science Academy 2 in Van Nuys and Magnolia Science Academy 3 in Carson — which are currently under review — are about to expire.
Federal authorities could decide to approve or deny renewal applications in the coming days but officials at the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) sent an email to the schools Tuesday that said that it would recommend denial.
The newspaper said the city’s Board of Education is expected to vote next week on the recommendations.
If the recommendations are unanimously accepted, the three charter schools would be shut down.
Although the LAUSD has not yet officially release its decision on the closures, sources told the newspaper that “one major issue is Magnolia’s foreign workers” whose majority entered the U.S. with H1-B working visas to teach.
According to U.S. law, H1-B visas can be extended for a maximum of six years and are supposed to be used only when there are no qualified U.S. citizens for jobs.
The newspaper said the charter school group applied for visas for 138 individuals. It adds that 97 of eventually worked in the past for Magnolia and 37 are still employed by the Gulen schools.
By law, Magnolia is required to cover the visa-related costs of the applications, which is about $3,000 for each employee. It must also pay visa costs of employees’ spouses and children.
According to Magnolia Chief Executive Caprice Young, the LAUSD estimated the total visa cost at about $929,000.
The newspaper said LAUSD officials will consider not only spending of public education funds on visas, but also employment of foreign nationals over American workers.
The district will also take into account that Magnolia schools engaged in “poor financial management and inconsistent or incorrect internal policies,” according to the newspaper.
In an interview with the paper in August, Magnolia’s governing board member Umit Yapanel admitted he was a Gulen follower.
Some of FETO’s U.S. schools are currently under the FBI investigation for irregularity, unlawful profits, corruption, fraud and forgery of documents.