"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Open letter to Dan Woods regarding the Gülen Network's Magnolia Charter Schools

"The Walton family, founder of Wal-mart, the worldwide retail giant, has donated millions of dollars to schools considered to be associated with the Gülen community." — Charter School Scandals

Who has ties to the cultish Gülenist Movement? Fethullah Gülen, Ref Rodriguez, Caprice Young, Monica Garcia, Richard Vladovic, Reed Hastings, Yvonne Chan, and Carrie Walton Penner

From: *****@ucla.edu
Subject: Open letter to Dan Woods regarding the Gülen Network's Magnolia Charter Schools
Date: February 02, 2016 14:22:46 PST
To: d.woods@mpglaw.com

Mr. Woods:

Just read your heavy-handed letter [1] to Arthur M. Pakowitz, Esq.

As a courtesy I wanted to address some of your concerns, which are clearly based in your ignorance regarding both privately managed charter schools, and the shadowy Gülen cult that your client is associated with.

Regarding your insistence that the Magnolia corporate charter school chain's financial information is transparent. This simply isn't the case, and it wasn't until the public school district called for an audit that one was conducted. Said audits revealed millions of "missing, misused funds" [2]. These were public dollars, squandered under the private management of your client.

You then make the absurd assertion that "Magnolia's eleven charter schools are public schools…" In case you actually believe that misrepresentation, let me disabuse you.

Generally charter schools are not public schools. Both existing case law and public policy have long established this. The Washington State Supreme Court (2015) held that charter schools are not "common schools" because they're governed by appointed rather than elected boards. The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010) ruled that charter schools are not "public actors." The California Court of Appeals (2007) ruled that charter schools are not "public agents." The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) joined many other government agencies in unequivocally determining that charters are, in NLRB's words, "private entities."

By definition if a charter school is run by a for-profit company, or a (501c3) non-profit corporation (e.g. Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation), then it is not a public school. The United States Census Bureau frames this issue best: "A few "public charter schools" are run by public universities and municipalities. However, most charter schools are run by private nonprofit organizations and are therefore classified as private." [3]

Because these lucrative charter schools are not public, and are not subject to even a modicum of public oversight, they are able to get away with violating the constitutional rights of their students. The decision in Scott B. v. Board of Trustees of Orange County High School of the Arts saw Rosa K. Hirji, Esq. write: "The structures that allow charter schools to exist are marked by the absence of protections that are traditionally guaranteed by public education, protections that only become apparent and necessary when families and students begin to face a denial of what they were initially promised to be their right." [4]

Lastly, there is ample documentation tying the Magnolia corporate charter school chain to the Gülenist Movement, namely through their intertwinement with the Los Angeles based Pacifica Institute—a Gülen organization which denies the 1915-1918 Armenian genocide. [5] Moreover, Fethullah Gülen's ties to the Magnolia charter schools was reported to Turkish readers as early as 2010. [6]

Far be it for me to do your research for you, but as a courtesy I offer the following footnote [7] as starting point for your own additional discovery.

I understand that the model rules of professional conduct call upon you to vigorously represent your client's interests, but one would expect an attorney of your standing to at least base your arguments in a modicum of reality. I suppose in a way I owe you and your firm a debt of gratitude inasmuch as you provide examples of the type of attorney I don't want to be—seemingly ones that hold billable hours more important than the public interest.

[1] https://twitter.com/GooseNetworkUSA/status/694588816066121728
[2] http://www.scpr.org/blogs/education/2014/07/21/17031/audit-finds-missing-misused-funds-at-la-charter-ne/
[3] US Census Bureau. (2011). Public Education Finances: 2009 (GO9-ASPEF). Washington, DC: US Government Printing O ce. Print. vi
[4] https://apps.americanbar.org/litigation/committees/childrights/content/articles/winter2014-0114-charter-schools-upholding-student-rights.html
[5] http://articles.latimes.com/2011/sep/30/local/la-me-0930-ottoman-band-20110930
[6] http://gundem.milliyet.com.tr/walmart-tan-gulen-okullarina-bagis/guncel/gundemdetay/27.08.2010/1281603/default.htm
[7] Compendium of Magnolia/Pacifica/Gülen resources:

Advocating Public Education and Social Justice

Robert D. Skeels
Juris Doctor Candidate
UCLA '14, PCL '18

"Problem posing education does not and cannot serve the interests of the oppressor" — Paulo Freire


  1. You are smoking hot and speak with passion and factuality. When you take that bar exam I know that a credible law firm will grab you right up and be very lucky to have someone of your caliber and integrity. Please point out how we may get ahold of you via e mail or phone. Lastly, I do hope you stay with educational law you have a passion for righting the wrongs against students. Bravo to you Mr. Skeels

  2. You're far too kind. If I do somehow pass the bar (eligible starting July 2018), I will devote myself to educational law. It's the reason I started law school to begin with. DM me on twitter @rdsathene, and I'll provide contact information.

  3. The teacher added, “the Gülen movement’s ultimate goal is to open charter schools in the U.S. to funnel U.S. tax dollars to back into the Gülen movement in Turkey. They skim just enough off the public taxpayers from these charter schools so it won’t look suspicious.”
    from this must read article:
    good luck to those brave enough and tireless enough to fight this battle

  4. Thanks to Robert Skeels for writing this letter and to Jim Horn posting it here. I just re-shared it on this collection of over 100+ posts documenting the harms of corporate charter expansion.

    Charter Schools & Choice: A Closer Look: http://bit.ly/chart_look