Early Withdrawal: In Tennessee, Hillsdale Pulls Out Ahead of Climactic Meeting
Plus, news on snakes and some shocking revelations about Gov. Bill Lee
Hillsdale College has been working to expand its Christian nationalist vision to Tennessee ever since Gov. Bill Lee called for evangelical exceptionalism in his January State of the State address.
Three charter schools affiliated with Hillsdale were rejected in Madison, Rutherford, and Montgomery counties. Hillsdale’s American Classical Academy submitted appeals for all three to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission - an unelected board whose members have been handpicked by Lee.
There were public hearings in all three districts - and Hillsdale worked to ensure that pro-Hillsdale speakers dominated the agenda.
Hillsdale has also engaged in a massive PR campaign - with President Larry Arnn writing OpEds and texts and direct mail going out to households across the state.
By all accounts, then, Hillsdale was pretty serious about getting its hands on Tennessee tax dollars. The withdrawal of the appeals, of course, doesn’t mean Hillsdale is no longer interested in Tennessee. It simply doesn’t make sense to conduct such an aggressive campaign and just walk away.
Here’s what NewsChannel5’s Phil Williams reported on the premature exit:
"We made this decision because of the limited time to resolve the concerns raised by the commission staff and our concerns that the meeting structure and timing on Oct. 5 will not allow commissioners to hear directly from the community members whose interests lie at the heart of the commission’s work," board chair Dolores Gresham wrote in a letter delivered Thursday to the commission.
Gresham, it’s worth noting, is a former Chair of the Senate Education Committee and a legislator with a long history of supporting efforts to shift public money to private schools.
As Williams notes in his story, Hillsdale had asked for a delay in the vote - that is, they had still hoped to appeal and to win those appeals.
This seems to indicate the schools will continue their PR offensive and hope to shift public opinion in order to secure public funds for their Christian nationalist vision.
An earlier analysis of the Hillsdale proposal - where Gov. Lee would help Hillsdale develop at least 50 charter schools in the state - suggests the Hillsdale charters stand to rake in nearly $500 million in Tennessee taxpayer cash if they operate at full capacity.
It seems unlikely that Larry Arnn and his Hillsdale acolytes would just walk away from nearly a half billion dollars.
In short, they will be back.
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Tennessee Legislative Happenings
Legislative hearings at the Tennessee General Assembly this week yielded some pretty interesting information.
First, it seems some lawmakers are concerned about a potential plague of snakes that will keep rural schools from functioning:
Next, it seems there are lawmakers who voted for bills and are now disappointed that those bills do exactly what the plain language of the bills says: