A bill targeting four Oklahoma charter schools because it has hired foreign teachers and administrators failed in legislative committee.
House Bill 1866 would have required the five highest paid administrators as well as its school board members to be American citizens. Failure to comply would have resulted in the loss of state funds.
The House of Representatives Common Education Committee voted 11-5 not to pass the measure.
“This bill sends a negative message that we are against cultural diversity, that perhaps we are a little paranoid about people of a different color and people of a different religion,” said Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove.
Rep. Sally Kern, the bill's author, told committee members her intent was to make sure state money going to charter schools went to Oklahomans and U.S. citizens.
“Let's use our own homegrown people first,” said Kern, R-Oklahoma City.
During questioning Kern said the schools were linked with supporters of a reclusive Turkish Islamic preacher named Fethullah Gulen. Kern identified the schools as the Dove and Discovery charter schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Marc Julian, director of development for the Dove and Discovery schools, denied affiliation with Gulen.
“I know who he is because he's a Turkish scholar, but only because these accusations have come up before in the past,” he said. “I don't know enough about the man. As far as I've ever understood that, no, we are not directly affiliated or affiliated in any way with anyone other than Oklahoma City Public Schools.”
The charter schools are privately run but publicly funded with an emphasis on math and science and a tendency to use H-1B visas to bring in foreign teachers.
Two of the charter schools are in Oklahoma City: Dove Science Academy, which houses grades six through 12, and Dove Science Academy Elementary, housing grades kindergarten through fifth. The other two schools are in Tulsa: Dove Science Academy of Tulsa, with grades six through 12, and Discovery School of Oklahoma, housing grades kindergarten through eighth.