Amsterdam & Partners, an international law firm, will detail findings of its investigation into 17 Ohio-based charter schools tied to Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in Pennsylvania. The findings will show misuse of public funds for illegal private benefit and will be turned over to Ohio Auditor David Yost. The findings include:
Evidence of insider deals by governing boards that siphon money from classrooms to the schools’ real estate arm, New Plan Learning, and saddle schools with irresponsible leases;
- Systematic redistribution of funding between schools across county and municipal tax boundaries to forestall insolvencies;
- Records showing that schools in Dayton, Toledo and Springfield have abusive leases not set to expire until 2041;
- The use of profits from excessive rental payments to acquire new properties to expand the network of Gulen-affiliated schools.
Gulen schools are operated by Concept Schools, a Chicago-based management company that oversees more than 100 charter schools in the U.S. Concept manages schools in Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Lorain, Toledo, Springfield and Youngstown. The Ohio schools operate under the names Horizon Science Academy or Noble Academy.
In 2014, ProgressOhio organized a panel of teachers who worked for the Dayton Horizon Science Academy to testify before the state school board. They reported witnessing test tampering, sexual misconduct in the classroom and unqualified teachers of Turkish decent; the Ohio Department of Education found no evidence of wrongdoing.
ProgressOhio has exposed a series of charter school scandals and worked with allies to champion a new law that improved accountability and transparency for the state’s $1 billion-a-year charter industry.
The Republic of Turkey hired Amsterdam & Partners in 2015 to conduct a global investigation into the Gulen organization. The firm’s work has led to ongoing investigations in California and Texas and prompted the Oklahoma state auditor to find evidence of financial fraud and contract bidding violations.
Amsterdam & Partners was awarded the 2013 Global Pro Bono Dispute of the Year Award from American Lawyer after winning a case on behalf of Dr. Georges Tadonki, who was wrongfully dismissed from the United Nations after blowing the whistle on United Nations’ complicity in atrocities in Zimbabwe.