CAIR Gets Failing Grades at Running Ohio Charter Schools

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released their annual school report cards this week, and the results show that two taxpayer-financed Islamic charter schools operated by officials of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) have failed miserably yet again. But protected by powerful political connections, including Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman, and apparently indifferent to their exploitation of the Somali children that comprise the vast majority of their students, the Islamic extremists running the operation appear to have no fear of losing their cash cows. In fact, Ohio educrats have renewed one school's contract after five years of complete academic failure.

The two schools, International Academy and Westside Academy, are run by a group of local Islamic leaders, including CAIR national board vice chairman Ahmad Al-Akhras, CAIR-Columbus president and CAIR-Ohio board member Abukar Arman, and Islamic Society of Greater Columbus president and imam Mouhamed Tarazi (who serves as principal of one of the schools). At one time or another, all have served on the board of the local private Islamic school in Central Ohio, Sunrise Academy.

Beginning operations in 2002, International Academy has a long track record of failure. According to the school's most recent state report card, the school only meets two of the 19 indicators measured (one of the two indicators it met was attendance). The performance index score of 73.9 fell well short of the 100 points required (of 120 total; the state median is 96.6), but since that was slightly more than the 72.2 scored the previous school year (2006-2007) the school received a "continuous improvement" designation. Only in the Orwellian world of union-controlled, taxpayer-financed public education does this performance rate a grade of C-, thanks to some grade inflation in this year's report cards courtesy of the ODE.

That "continuous improvement" designation notwithstanding, since International Academy opened, it has never met the state's required "adequate yearly progress" standard and has never met more than two of the state indicators. Looking at the past three years of academic performance data, we find in four of the seven tested areas, test scores declined last year from the previous year.

The second school, Westside Academy, appears to be following in its older brother's failing footsteps. Their state report card shows that they met state standards in one area -- attendance. Across all grade levels and subjects, less than 20 percent of their students rated proficient or better. In one subject area, 3rd grade math, the school achieved zero percent proficiency. Their performance index also dropped to 56.9 last school year (again, 100 of 120 points being the state requirement), putting them in the "academic watch" category.

No doubt, officials for both schools will place the blame on their students, claiming that since many of them speak English as a second language they are at a disadvantage. But in fact, ODE excluded testing results from students who had limited English proficiency. And the school curriculum itself continues to academically disadvantage the children. Instead of focusing their efforts on helping them improve their English skills, the language emphasis at these two schools is not on English, but instead, Arabic -- a foreign language to Somalis.

If there is one subject that both schools excel in, it is Islamic extremism.

For example, in September 2006 CAIR-Ohio hosted an anti-Israel "teach-in" at International Academy, co-sponsored by the International Socialist Organization. One speaker, Hatem Bazian, is noted for making shockingly extremist statements, such as this gem from a May 1999 American Muslim Alliance conference in California where he reportedly invoked a notorious hadith about killing Jews:

In the hadith, the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews. They are on the west side of the river, which is the Jordan River, and you're on the east side, until the trees and stones will say, oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him! And that's in the hadith about this, this is a future battle before the Day of Judgment. (cited in Steven Emerson, American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, pp. 214-215)

More recently, he was captured on video speaking at an April 2004 rally in San Francisco in support of the Iraqi terrorist insurgency, demanding "an intifada in this country":

It's about time that we have an intifada in this country that change[s] fundamentally the political dynamics in here. And we know every -- they're gonna say some Palestinian being too radical -- well, you haven't seen radicalism yet!

Education also appears to take a backseat to the financial interests of school officials -- a fact noted by the state auditors. A 2003 Ohio state auditor's report of International Academy found (p. 15) that the school paid $83,500 to Strategic Education and Economic Development (SEED) for teacher training, curriculum development, financial management, and government relations. According to filings with the Ohio secretary of state, SEED was a trade name for the Consolidated Investment Group, Inc., which the CAIR officials had incorporated. The state legislature closed that loophole in 2003, preventing charter school developers and board members from profiting from their positions in this manner.

But that law change didn't stop school officials from skimming off the schools, as the audit noted further:

The Contract with SEED was terminated effective April 7, 2003, subsequently the Academy employed the officers of SEED to conduct management consulting services as Director of School Operations, Director of Personnel, Director of Community and Student Affairs, Director of Capacity Building and Education and Curriculum Consultants. This places these individuals in the same capacity to provide the educational, development and operations financial and facilities management, as under the contract between SEED and the Academy. Each receives $2,000 per month effective July 1, 2003.

Thus prevented by the state legislature from playing corporate shell games to skim from the schools, they created jobs for themselves at the schools and paid themselves handsomely -- all while holding other government jobs.

The school operators have also continued to skim through elaborate real estate investment deals on property rented by Westside Academy and construction contracts for International Academy. The Franklin County auditor's property tax records show that the building currently occupied by Westside Academy is owned by Unified Investment Corp., which lists its place of business as International Academy principal Mouhamed Tarazi's home address and Tarazi as the business agent. The 2004 Ohio state auditor's report notes in addition (p. 22) that a corporation in which Tarazi was a partner, Sali International, was also paid $140,386 by International Academy.

Oh, and did I mention that school employees participate in the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System (OPERS) and are thus exempt under federal law from having to pay Social Security taxes?

Don't expect politicians to intervene in this situation, as school officials have powerful political patrons in the state and local governments. Several board members have contributed heavily to Democratic Party candidates and officeholders, in addition to helping with campaign fundraising.

They have also established cover with the Ohio Department of Education by infiltrating the agency. For example, one of their consulting business partners is Abdinur Mohamed, who works for the ODE overseeing the Title III federal program responsible for students with limited English language proficiency (a program through which the schools also receive funds).

Other school officials appear throughout the Ohio educational bureaucracy. Abukar Arman, the board president of Westside Academy, was appointed to the Ohio State Board of Education's Foreign Language Advisory Council in March 2007. Mouhamed Tarazi was appointed in September 2006 to the State Board's Ohio Committee of Practitioners, which advises the state government on any rule or regulation for educational programs funded by the federal government. Meanwhile, his wife, Norma, a CAIR-Ohio corporate officer, serves on the Fairness and Sensitivity Review Committee for the Ohio Graduation Test. Interestingly, she serves on a committee concerned with "fairness and sensitivity" despite having made openly anti-Semitic public statements about the local "Jewish lobby."

It's no surprise then that while state officials are cracking down on failing charter schools throughout the state, International Academy and Westside Academy remain untouched and unaffected. Afraid of being angrily branded as "Islamophobes" or "racists" by CAIR and their supporters, Ohio educrats, politicians, and the local media are content to look the other way concerning the failing performance of these two schools. In fact, International Academy, having only met at most two of 19 state standards in any school year since it opened, had their ODE contract renewed.

Fully aware of their political advantage, CAIR officials are more than content to use taxpayer dollars to further their Islamic extremist goals while simultaneously victimizing innocent schoolchildren who would be receiving a better education at practically any other nearby public school. One might think that those who react automatically anytime the "for the children" mantra is invoked would be appalled at CAIR officials' deliberate exploitation of a particularly vulnerable Somali immigrant population. But when CAIR is involved, all bets are off.