Chicago Sun-Times: Lawyers for Turkey call for probe of Chicago charter school


Lawyers for the government of Turkey filed a complaint Tuesday with the Chicago Public Schools’ inspector general against a local charter group and its taxpayer-funded school in Rogers Park.

The complaint alleges Des Plaines-based Concept Schools and its Chicago Math and Science Academy engage in “sweetheart deals” that hurt local taxpayers — but benefit the global movement led by Turkish-born cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is in a bitter struggle with the 75-year-old Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and has ties to charter-management firms that run about 150 schools across the country, including CMSA and three other publicly funded Concept campuses in Chicago.

The attorneys for Erdogan’s government, led by Washington, D.C.-based lawyer Robert Amsterdam, have filed similar complaints with education officials in three other states in recent months.

In 2011, New Plan Learning used money from a bond issue to buy the North Side school building from CMSA, add a gym and expand three schools in Ohio.

Under the deal, CMSA was on the hook to pay about $40 million in rent to New Plan Learning, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported.

The newspaper also revealed in 2013 that the CMSA board treasurer at the time of the bond issue, Edip Pektas, was paid $100,000 by New Plan Learning as a financial adviser on the deal.

The lawyers for Turkey say the lease deal for the school building outlined “extremely poor terms for CMSA” and was renegotiated “for worse terms” a couple of years ago.

They also allege CMSA’s $1 million gym has “multiple leaks in its roof, cracks in its foundation, rodent problems, sanitary issue and flooring that peeled upward due to an improperly installed bleacher system.”

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