Former Thunder player Enes Kanter wants to open a charter school in Oklahoma City and plans to file an application with the school district later this month, The Frontier has learned.
Called the Enes Kanter School for Exceptional Learning, Kanter has not yet identified a location, but “our goal is to situate EKSEL Charter School where the need is high,” Kanter wrote in a letter submitted to Oklahoma City Public Schools last month.
The letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Frontier, says an official charter school application will be submitted to the district on Jan. 14.
Kanter played for the Thunder from 2014 to 2016. He currently plays for the Boston Celtics, but continues to hold a youth basketball camp each year in Oklahoma City.
Kanter, who is Turkish, has been an outspoken critic of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and has been a supporter of Fethullah Gulen, an opponent of Erdogan’s government who preaches a moderate form of Sunni Islam.
Gulen’s movement has been linked with charter schools in the United States, including Dove Schools in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Following a visit by First Lady Melania Trump last year to a Dove charter school in Tulsa that drew criticism for the school’s possible relationship with Gulen, Dove’s board president, Mary Blankenship Pointer, issued a statement claiming the school was not affiliated with any religious or social organization.
“In fact, as a public charter schools, any such association is prohibited. Dove Schools is run by an independent board of directors,” Pointer said.
Kanter’s letter to the Oklahoma City school district did not list any connection with another school or a religious or social organization. However, Kanter did list Pointer as a member of his charter school applicant group.
In addition to Pointer, Sam Fulkerson and Jonna D. Kauger Kirschner were named by Kanter as members of the applicant group.
Oklahoma City Public Schools is the state’s largest district, but has experienced years of enrollment declines with many students moving to charter schools.
Last year, the school district closed 15 schools as part of a plan to respond to low enrollment at some sites and consolidate services and programs at schools that remained open.
Kanter’s proposed charter school already has a supporter in Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt who wrote a letter to the school district this month requesting consideration for the proposal.
“I have known Mr. Kanter for several years and know him to have a heart for our young people, and especially the young people of Oklahoma City,” Holt wrote in a letter obtained by The Frontier.
Kanter said his school would serve students in fourth through 12th grade and “provide high quality and engaging classroom learning experiences for culturally and academically diverse students in Oklahoma City.”
Kanter also said he anticipates his school will “serve primarily minority students who come from low-income families, many of whom are first generation immigrant families with low English language skills.”
Charter schools are considered public schools that are given greater flexibility than traditional public schools. While charter schools receive state funding for each student, they often require additional financial support. Some states restrict how many charter schools can operate within state borders, but Oklahoma does not.
Kanter’s letter did not list a financial plan for the school, but it does tout the applicant group’s deep civic and business connections in Oklahoma City.
“Despite playing for other teams, I continue to return to Oklahoma City to host my annual basketball summer camps and to support programs that serve the OKC children,” Kanter wrote in his letter to the district.