U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who has been holding the office for seven years and some have claimed he has ties with the Gülen Movement, stepped down from the cabinet on Friday, a major blow for the movement's financial network and schools.
Duncan was awarded in 2007 with the Education Award by the Niagara Foundation, whose Honorary President is Fethullah Gülen, the self-exiled leader of the Gülen Movement, when he was CEO of Chicago Public Schools. He was also granted the Peace and Dialogue Award in 2010 by the Rumi Forum – another platform linked with movement – after being appointed the Secretary of Education and sent a message for the ceremony that praised the platform's activities.
His senior adviser, Ken Bedell, is also claimed to have ties with the Gülen Movement and has been involved with visits to Washington by students from Gülen schools. Bedell addressed the Rumi Forum twice, in 2010 and 2011, in which he extolled Gülen and his ideas on education. He also gave a speech on a panel titled "Low-Income Students" at the Houston-based Gülen Institute.
According to 2012 and 2013 figures, more than 60,000 students are registered at more than 130 Gülen charter schools. The movement receives more than $630 million for schools under the names Cosmos, Pioneer, Harmony and Magnolia, which corresponds to $10,608 per student.
It is known that Duncan had granted these schools significant amounts of money, such as in December 2012, for the Texas-based Harmony charter schools.
In 2014, the FBI raided 19 charter schools affiliated with the Gülen Movement in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois for reasons allegedly related to crimes linked to education contracts.
The movement's first school was established in Ohio in 1999, and currently the Gülen Movement operates 140 charter schools in 26 states in the U.S.