A fiscal audit of two Los Angeles charter schools for fiscal mismanagement has led to concerns about the two charter schools’ parent organization. The audit led to the closing of Magnolia Science Academy-6 and Magnolia Science Academy-7 for reasons, according to L.A. Unified district, that included “a number of irregularities.” However, the audit also apparently revealed that the charters’ parent, Magnolia Public Schools, may itself be insolvent, according to Non-Profit Quarterly.
The news about the two Magnolia schools in Los Angeles has been noticed by other localities that host Magnolia charters. The Santa Clara County Office of Education last year renewed a charter petition for a Magnolia school outside of Cupertino, but is now concerned. “We will pay attention to this—we wouldn’t want to find out that our [Magnolia charter] school would have to close because other [Magnolia] schools are in trouble,” said Don Bolce, Santa Clara’s director of special projects. “We recognize that with a charter school that is part of a charter management organization, a problem at one school could impact other schools – if there is a problem, it endangers the system.”
The Magnolia charter school system has had its ups and downs over the years, with some schools closed in other districts. But the 11 operating Magnolia schools, including eight in the Los Angeles Unified School District, are not ordinary charter schools, assuming there is any such thing. A Turkish newspaper, the Daily Sabah, indicates that the Magnolia schools are affiliated with a Turkish movement called the Gülen Movement. A website for the Gülen movement, also called “Hizmet,” describes the movement as “a faith-inspired, non-political, cultural and educational movement whose basic principles stem from Islam’s universal values, such as love of the creation, sympathy for the fellow human, compassion, and altruism,” establishing schools and universities around the world to carry out the beliefs of Gülen.
MPS currently operates 11 schools across California: eight in LAUSD, plus three others, including one in Santa Ana that has been of concern to school and county officials in Orange County, according to LA School Report.
The Santa Ana Pacific Charter/Magnolia Santa Ana (190 students 6-12) was renewed in April, 2014: Operating for five years as a “statewide benefit charter,” authorized by the California Department of Education, this school was forced to seek a new authorizer when its sister school in Orangevale closed. (The state requires an operator to have two schools under a statewide benefit charter). Last year, the state put it on a list of schools in “Poor Financial Condition,” and when the operator sought authorization from the Santa Ana Unified School District, the district denied the petition, citing fiscal concerns. The appeal was denied by the Orange County Department of Education in February of this year. On appeal, the Advisory Commission on Charter Schools State Board of Education voted in favor of awarding a the charter despite a staff report citing financial concerns.The school is on track to receive $18 million dollars in bond money for a new facility.
For MPS, the problems in LA Unified are just the latest in a series of issues that have plagued the nonprofit in recent years. It has faced numerous audits of its schools as well as accusations of an association with a Turkish group called the Gulen movement, an Islamist-based group involved in education in countries around the world that has been accused of creating a cult-like environment in its schools.
For some reason Tea Party members advocated for the MPS school in Santa Ana. Now it is time for all of us to start complaining to Al Mijares, the Superintendent of Education here in Orange County, about this shady school. He in turn can convey our thoughts to the appropriate state officials. All of the MPS/Gülen schools need to be shut down!