Charter school seeking $9.2M to expand
County commissioners must approve issuance of the revenue bonds.
Montgomery County commissioners will decide Thursday whether to approve the issuance of $9.2 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds to expand a controversial charter school in Dayton.
Deputy County Administrator Joe Tuss said the county would have no liability for the issuance of the bonds, but commission approval is required under the Internal Revenue Code.
The bonds would be issued by the Industrial Development Authority of the County of Pima, Ariz. Proceeds of the bonds would be loaned to New Plan Learning, Inc., an Ohio nonprofit corporation, to finance the expansion of Horizon Science Academy — Dayton High School at 250 Shoup Mill Road.
Chicago-based Concept Schools runs 19 Ohio charter schools, including three Horizon Science Academies in Dayton. One of the state’s largest operators of publicly financed charters, it was founded by Turkish educators inspired by religious leader and scholar, Fethullah Gulen.
The commissioners unanimously approved the same issuance of bonds in June 2010, but the process is being repeated because the approval expired before bonds could be issued, officials said.
Concept Vice President Salim Ucan said the plan calls for moving students from an elementary school at 545 Odlin Ave. to the Shoup Mill location to create a K-12 campus by the 2012-13 school year.
Part of the school would be renovated to add classrooms, offices, labs and a cafeteria, and a new gymnasium also would be built. School officials also want to purchase 3.26 acres of adjacent property for athletic fields.
Three people — a parent, a grandparent and a representative of the charter school’s sponsor, Buckeye Hope Foundation — spoke in favor of the financing during a public hearing Tuesday before Tuss and Linda Gum, a community/economic development specialist.
Ohio Federation of Teachers President Sue Taylor took a stand against the proposal, raising concerns in a letter to county officials about New Plan Learning and Concept Schools.
“We believe this particular bond issuance requires further disclosure for the specifics surrounding these schools and the related entities,” wrote Taylor, who asked that the county commission table the resolution for further study.
Though Gulen preaches a philosophy of nonviolence, interfaith dialogue and personal success through education in math and sciences, the movement has drawn praise and criticism from both ends of the spectrum.
Teachers’ union officials say the schools misuse the H-1B visa program to import Turkish teachers, bypassing qualified Americans, while conservative bloggers accuse Gulen followers of trying to brainwash kids in the ways of radical Islam.
Ucan said that as publicly funded schools, they are forbidden to push religion.
Former President Clinton and former President Reagan’s secretary of state, James Baker, are among the movement’s supporters, lauding its success in educating kids in tough urban developments.
The Gulen movement and the Horizon schools were the subject of a March 20 Dayton Daily News examination.
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2094 or mkissell @DaytonDailyNews.com.