It’s not easy to open a charter school in Maine, and the wisdom behind that arduous process was evident Monday.

While the Maine Charter School Commission has rejected a host of applications for charter schools, it hadn’t rejected one yet for outright deception.

But by unanimous vote Monday, the commission buried the hopes of its two Portland applicants, Tarlan Ahmadov and Huseyin Kara, to establish the Lewiston-Auburn Academy Charter School.

The commission not only vetoed the application, it eliminated from its rejection letter its customary invitation to re-apply. “You lied to me once. I don’t want to hear from you again,” said Commissioner Ande Smith.

Ahmadov and Kara had hoped to open a school emphasizing math and science for 180 students this fall. But, at a disastrous hearing on the plan Feb. 6, Lewiston School Superintendent Bill Webster revealed that the applicants listed the names of three local community leaders as supporters when they were not.

Webster also said the applicants had promoted their plan at local mosques and only sought support from the Islamic community. By law, all charter schools in Maine must be open to all students and cannot be affiliated with or teach a religion.

The applicants had also tried to obfuscate their ties to a controversial charter school movement founded by supporters of an exiled Turkish religious leader, Fethullah Gulen.

While the applicants denied links to the movement, a Gulen school website listed the Lewiston school as having an application in the works.

The Gulen movement has about 120 charter schools in the U.S. While many achieve good academic results, questions have been raised about whether the schools use taxpayer dollars to benefit members of the Gulen movement and promote Gulen Islamic teachings.

But Maine’s charter-review application and hearing process worked.

The school was resoundingly rejected, sparing Lewiston-Auburn — and their immigrant communities — the controversy and embarrassment that would certainly have ensued.

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The opinions expressed in this column reflect the views of the ownership and the editorial board.


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