In May, a report was published here on a new charter school proposed for Buffalo, called Learn4Life, showing grave concern with a history of deceptive practices, conflict of interest violations, and profit-making schemes from its affiliated charter management organization. Along with Learn4Life, there are two other charter schools proposed by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for approval by Board of Regents in September. There is a fourth charter school being considered for Buffalo by the SUNY Board of Trustees.
Royal Academy of Buffalo Charter School is another charter proposed for Buffalo by NYSED that is also affiliated with a large charter chain and charter management organization. Royal School System is the proposed CMO for the Buffalo charter and its founder and chief executive, Dr. Soner Tarim, is the proposed board chair. Dr. Tarim and is organizations have a history that is as is tainted, if not more tainted, than Learn4Life. Like Learn4Life, the founder of Royal and his affiliated organizations, have been featured in the Washington Post (May, 2019):
The Royal School System is affiliated with several other organizations, including, Royal Public Schools and Harmony Public Schools, also founded and led by Dr. Tarim. Dr. Tarim and his various organizations operate over 60 charter schools in various states, but, primarily in Texas. Dr. Tarim has long been alleged to be affiliated with Gulen charter schools and it’s affiliated terrorist group (FETO). He is known for concealing his affiliation with Gulen and Harmony Schools have a noteworthy history of funneling millions of dollars to Gulen affiliated companies. In 2012, the Texas Education Agency determined that $186,000 of federal funds were misspent by Harmony.
In June of 2019, the Texas State Education Board rejected a Royal Charter School for Austin. The bipartisan rejection (4 Republicans and 4 Democrats) was based on concern with Dr. Tarim’s curriculum, inclusion of students with disabilities, and denying admission to particular students. The Texas State Education Board Chair claimed that Dr. Tarim uses “alternative facts” and made the following remarks: “Someone with his attitude should not be allowed near a school, much less involved with running one…And for people like Soner Tarim, charters are about only making money — not about educating children.”
Dr. Tarim has also triggered disdain in Alabama, with opposition from the Mayor and people of Chatom. The Alabama Education Association filed a lawsuit against Dr. Tarim for concealing his involvement with another Alabama charter (Woodland Prep), which the National Association of Charter School Authorizers declared to be “insufficient” and “failing to meet basic standards for approval”. As reported in the Alabama Political Reporter, Dr. Tarim would’ve become the highest paid education official in Washington County had he succeeded with managing Woodland Prep, bringing in $300,000 or 15% of federal, state, and local funds.
Just this past January, Dr. Tarim and another one of his organizations (Unity School Services) were part of this scandal for the first charter school in Montgomery, Alabama:
Dr. Tarim’s modus operandi is quite clear. He’s continually under investigation, running to the next place when he gets caught, and Buffalo is where he is running to next. Dr. Tarin, says himself, in his NYSED application: "Buffalo is the perfect place for charter incubation." If Royal Academy is approved in Buffalo, Royal’s charter application projects that it will cost the Buffalo Public Schools $22.3 million over 5 years, with $1.7 million going directly to Dr. Tarim and his CMO.
Why is the NYSED Charter Office considering Buffalo as Dr. Tarin's next place to prey on? Why is the Charter Office even considering such tainted actors to exploit our children and our public tax dollars?
The Board of Regents needs to seek answers and right this ship for Buffalo. Adding any new charters in Buffalo at a time when we are enduring the COVID-19 pandemic and navigating the reopening of schools safely and effectively for our staff and children, along with growing cuts in state aid, is against one’s fiduciary responsibility. Adding charters with a history of deception, exploitation, and profiteering, is unconscionable.
Buffalo Board of Education- Member-at-Large