A formal complaint has been issued under the California Uniform Complaint Procedure (“UCP”) urging the California Department of Education to conduct a full investigation into the financial practices of the Magnolia Public Schools charter school network, which currently operates 11 active charter schools in California.
The UCP Complaint – brought by the law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP, in conjunction with interested California taxpayers Dr. José Moreno and Tina Andres – notes that a 2015 audit conducted by the California State Auditor discovered widespread accounting impropriety and raised numerous other important questions about Magnolia’s financial practices. Notable among them is Magnolia’s connection to the global organization of charter schools and businesses headed by Turkish national Fethullah Gülen, a reclusive Islamic cleric who resides in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
“The State Auditor was unable to verify the propriety of a staggering 69% of financial transactions from a sampling at the Magnolia schools, but it did identify large contracts from Magnolia to affiliated vendors, and revealed that Magnolia has improperly spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on immigration lawyers to import teachers from Turkey,” said Robert Amsterdam, founding partner of Amsterdam & Partners LLP. “Although Magnolia’s CEO and Superintendent insists that there is no connection between Magnolia and the Gülen Organization, we respectfully direct the California authorities to Magnolia’s financial ties to the Pacifica Institute in Irvine, and to the similarities between Magnolia’s operating profile and that of other known Gülen Organization charter schools.”
Tina Andres, one of the individual Complainants, said, “Magnolia’s misuse of public funds is intolerable. They use our tax dollars to pay for visas to hire Turkish teachers, while there are plenty of talented and highly qualified teachers looking for positions in our area.”
Magnolia has submitted multiple new charter school applications valued at more than $48 million each. The UCP Complaint asserts that the volume of negative findings of the California State Auditor from a mere sampling of Magnolia’s transactions and vendor agreements should have spurred a comprehensive investigation into the Magnolia charter school network, and that the State of California owes a fiduciary duty to California taxpayers to probe further.
The UCP Complaint was delivered to the California Department of Education, as well as to various stakeholders concerned about the issue. It is available for viewing at http://magnoliacomplaint.com, where supporters may also sign a petition urging the California Department of Education to initiate the requested investigation
Dr. José Moreno is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Chicano & Latino Studies at California State University, Long Beach, and a former President of the Board of Education for the Anaheim City School District. He has four children currently attending public schools in Anaheim, where Magnolia is seeking to expand. Tina Andres is a veteran public school teacher in the Santa Ana Unified School District, which hosts a Magnolia school. She has two children attending public schools in the district, one of which is a charter school.