WASHINGTON - At first glance, Harmony School of Excellence looks like any other campus. Inside the school, it feels like your typical school, but it is what is happening beyond the classroom that has prompted a Washington D.C.-based attorney to file a complaint with the Texas Education Agency asking them to investigate the misuse of taxpayer dollars to fund visas and more.
“It's frankly evidence of unqualified teachers, many of whom are brought here because they are members of this Gulen movement,” said attorney Robert Amsterdam.
This movement is led by Fethullah Gulen, an exiled Muslim cleric who apparently wants to overthrow Turkish government.
Amsterdam filed the complaint on behalf of Turkey.
“What we document in the Texas complaint is a tremendous amount of mismanagement, a tremendous amount of contracting from the schools to other Turkish vendors related to the Gulen movement,” Amsterdam told FOX 5. “They all bring in Turkish teachers, many of them unqualified.”
Andra Ferguson’s 7-year old son attends Harmony. She disagrees with Amsterdam’s assertion.
“The type of parent that I am, my son wouldn't be here if that was the case,” said Andra Ferguson. “I would definitely pull him out because I'm his advocate. I would have something to say.”
However, a teacher who did not want to be identified said the top tier is all from Turkey.
“We have the principal, the assistant principal and the IT guy that are all from Turkey,” said the teacher.
Even so, she is surprised by the assertions.
“When I hear the allegations, I'm surprised and I'm confused and baffled because I know that the principal and the administrator we have here, they look out for us,” the teacher said.
The teacher told FOX 5 the faculty is required to take a trip to Houston once a year.
The D.C. Public Charter School Board is looking into these allegations.
In a statement, Harmony Public Schools responded to the allegations saying:
"The allegations filed today (May 24) with the Texas Education Agency by an agent of the President of Turkey are nothing more than a politically-motivated re-hash of old claims and complaints that have been heard and investigated previously and found to be without merit.
To be clear about Harmony Public Schools (HPS):
- HPS is a non-profit, academic entity founded in the United States for the sole purpose of providing quality public education for children in Texas.
- Harmony Public Schools have no affiliation of any kind with any religious or social organizations or movements.
- Harmony’s procurement process is done according to Texas state law and is, in fact, outsourced and managed by the Harris County Department of Education.
- In Texas, no state or taxpayer funds are used to acquire or build school facilities for any charter school – that money is raised in the bond market, where Harmony enjoys a AAA rating, the highest rating possible - and awarded only after intense financial scrutiny.
- State funding can only be used for teachers, curriculum development, and classroom activities.
- Harmony’s rate of teachers under H-1B visas, which are authorized and issued by the U.S. federal government after extensive vetting, is seven (7) percent and decreasing every year.
"Harmony Public Schools stands ready to participate fully in any action the Texas Education Agency decides to take, and we are confident that our actions and activities will be found to be consistent with our mission: To provide a high-quality STEM-focused education to Texas school children, particularly in minority and traditionally underserved communities."