After my story about Sonoran Science Academy ran on April 25, I noticed the debate about the schools' alleged connection to the Gülen Movement had changed. Instead of making denials that there was any connection to the movement, people were saying such connections didn't matter.
Take this blanket denial — from a December Tucson Weekly story — by Mr. Fatih Karatas, principal of Sonoran Science Academy's middle and high schools on the northwest side: "We don't have any kind of connections or any kind of relations with that movement or group. A public school can not be affiliated in any way with other institutions or groups because of the regulations, because of the charters."
In contrast, last month the superintendent of Daisy Education Corp., Ozkur Yildiz, also denied "affiliation" with the Gülen Movement, but acknowledged that some employees may be followers of Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish religious-political leader.
In my main story that day, Superintendent of Public Education Tom Horne said all that matters to him with the regard to the Turkish-run schools is results. He was unconcerned with possible connections to this religious-political movement or the large scale use of teachers from Turkey and Central Asia. And many commenters after the story took this position as well: If they're not proselytizing and the kids score well, so what?
"Since the US is a free country, why should it be a problem if pious Turks operate public charter schools, as long as they meet the legal and academic criteria? That's the case with the schools inspired by Gulen's pacifist ideas. Authorities constantly monitor these schools. Had there been any credible evidence of illegal or inappropriate activity, they would have taken the necessary punitive actions (as they should)."
That's an interesting assumption -- that authorities are truly monitoring these schools. It's not supported by the Star's reporting last year on charter schools.
In any case, I suppose the basic question is worthy, though I think I answered it in part on April 25: So what? Let's hear some answers.