Brother in law in the public interest

There’s a strange and still-mysterious scandal in which some number of apparently connected Turkish groups have gotten approval to run charter schools across America, some 120 of them. The unusual nature of the “Turkish school” movment made the big-time news first in Texas, courtesy of the New York Times, which noted that although much of the opposition to the Turkish charters was based on good old-fashioned American xenophobia — the schools tend to employ Turkish teachers — the trend also raised financial questions. Those questions are a bit more prominent now because of an estimable package of stories in the New Orleans Times-Picayune about Turkish charter schools in Louisiana. The package is not just estimable, it has one of my relatives cast in the role of public-service hero, brother-in-law Folwell Dunbar (picture below). Here’s the bottom line from the T-P:

Inci Akpinar, the vice president of a company called Atlas Texas Construction & Trading, sat down with an official from the Louisiana Department of Education a little more than a year ago and made him an offer. As the state official, Folwell Dunbar, recalled in a memo to department colleagues, Akpinar flattered him with “a number of compliments” before getting to the point: “I have twenty-five thousand dollars to fix this problem: twenty thousand for you and five for me.”

At the time, Dunbar was investigating numerous complaints against Abramson Science & Technology Charter School in eastern New Orleans, which shares apparent ties to Akpinar’s firm as well as charter schools in other states run by Turkish immigrants. In fact, state auditors had already turned up startling deficiencies at Abramson. The records they kept of unannounced visits to the campus, as well as interviews with former teachers, paint a chaotic scene: classrooms without instructors for weeks and even months at a time, students who claimed their science fair projects had been done by teachers, a single special-needs instructor for a school of nearly 600.

Dunbar — having declined to take money from Akpinar — recommended more than a year ago that the state board of education yank Abramson’s charter. But the board ultimately stopped short of closing down the school, giving it a year to shape up under a “corrective action plan.”

Folwell also reported the bribe attempt to New Orleans police, and now the state has finally agreed to close the school and investigate. Those who haven’t dealt intimately with government have no idea how hard it is to do the right thing in these types of circumstances. All the peer pressure pushes in the direction of inaction and going and getting along. And let’s not forget, this happened in Lousiana. Ordinarily, because I try not to miss a chance to give Folwell a hard time, I’d make a sardonic brother-in-law joke here. This time, I think I’ll just sit back, read the story again, and be proud.

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2 Comments

Filed under corruption, education

2 responses to “Brother in law in the public interest

  1. You know, I have to tell you, I really enjoy this blog and the insight from everyone who participates. I find it to be refreshing and very informative. I wish there were more blogs like it. Anyway, I felt it was about time I posted, Ive spent most of my time here just lurking and reading, but today for some reason I just felt compelled to say this.

  2. Pingback: Brother in law in the public interest | Γονείς σε Δράση

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