YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Lawmakers in Youngstown are calling for reform of the charter school system. This comes after Turkey’s government said money from Ohio charter schools could be supporting terrorists.
“Ohio is the wild, wild west of charter schools and we need to have charter school reform,” said Representative Michele Lepore-Hagan. “The charter school industry should be held to the same set of standards as our public schools. It’s about educating our children and it’s really so unfair if these dollars are not going back into the classroom.”
Lepore-Hagan has traveled the state, calling for more oversight of charter schools.
She says she isn’t surprised by allegations that money from some of them, including Horizon Science Academy in Youngstown, could be funneling back to a Turkish religious movement.
“We’re not sure where our tax dollars are going. They could be leaving the state or, in this case, leaving the country.”
Concept Schools operates nine Horizon Academies in Ohio. This year, it’ll get more than $35 million in state and federal money for those schools. The one in Youngstown gets $4 million in state and federal funds every year to run its one building.
“They’ve made an incredible amount of money, not only here in Ohio, but across the country,” said State Senator Joe Schiavoni.
The Turkish government claims that Concept Schools has close ties to cleric Fethulleh Gulen, who is currently living in exile in Pennsylvania, and his religious movement. Turkey says the movement is behind the failed coup attempt that killed 300 people earlier this year.
Whether the claims are true or not, Schiavoni says he’s working on a law to force charter schools to open their financial books and reveal how they spend tax money.
“We can make a decision as a community whether or not we want them there and parents can make a decision, an informed decision, whether or not they want to send their kids there.”
In a documentary from 2014, Concept Schools founders said they were inspired by the works of Fethulleh Gulen.
Concept Schools denies the allegations.