TURKISH TIE: LISA Academy gets the OK from Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin.
An article in today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
notes that Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin's
name turned up in a Justice Department review of Michael Flynn's political work,
specifically on behalf of some Turkish interests opposed to Fethullah Gulen
, a Turkish exile in the U.S. who's been linked to the operation of charter schools nationwide.
Gulen is an arch-enemy of current Turkish leadership.
Griffin dismissed the matter. He said he was called by a political operative of his acquaintance who wanted to know about ties between Gulen and the LISA Academy
charter schools in Arkansas.
Griffin, who made clear he's an advocate of LISA Academy, said he called Scott Smith
. He's the Walton Family Foundation
-financed head of the Arkansas Public School Resource Center,
which promotes charter school establishment. They love them all, no matter who's behind them.
Smith told the D-G that the issue had been raised years ago, but no evidence put forward to support the claim.
"The state Board [of Education] asked some questions about it and as far as I know they weren't able to substantiate anything," Scott Smith said.
I don't recall the state Board making any effort to determine ties between LISA Academy and Gulen (or, for that matter, if it would be of consequence if proved.) But Turkish connections at the school are deep and well-known, beginning with the native Turk founders, the Turkish members of the original board and a great number of Turkish teachers on special visas (because of a shortage of math and science teachers, the school has said.) Anti-Gulen websites have persistently claimed ties between LISA and the Gulen movement, though the shrouded nature of charter school finance and control makes it difficult to easily track relationships. The school has just as persistently disclaimed a tie with the movement.
For someone with time, however, there are threads for a dedicated researcher like Tim Griffin to follow.
Example: Here's a New Orleans report
on a questionable contact made by an official of a Texas construction company with ties to a Louisiana charter school "as well as charter schools in other states run by Turkish immigrants." A Texas construction company of the same name, coincidently, did work on the LISA Academy in Little Rock, according to an OSHA news release
about citations for safety violations during the work. The New Orleans report notes the tangled relationships of schools, supporting organizations and others and suspicions about Gulen ties We explored the Turkish background years ago in an article by Jennifer Barnett Reed.
Gee, maybe Griffin should have called us, too.