Hillsdale Heist Week in Tennessee
Rejections in four of five districts where American Classical Academy applied
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This past week was Hillsdale Heist week in Tennessee. The extremist charter school network applied to open American Classical Academies in five Tennessee districts - Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson, and Rutherford.
This just one year after the schools, connected to Michigan-based Hillsdale College, had applied to open in Madison, Rutherford, and Montgomery counties. Last year, the schools were rejected in all three districts, then Hillsdale appealed to Gov. Bill Lee’s handpicked State Charter Commission, then withdrew those appeals.
All five districts held School Board meetings this week to determine the fate of the Hillsdale charters.
Four of the five districts (Madison, Maury, Montgomery, & Robertson) rejected the Hillsdale applications - though the Maury County vote was a narrow 6-5 rejection.
That leaves Rutherford County.
After the 2022 elections - the first where candidates for School Board ran with party affiliations - a group of conservative Republicans aligned with State Senator Dawn White and other advocates of school privatization now control the School Board. Not only has White, a former teacher, consistently supported efforts to use public money to fund private schools, but she has also consistently voted against legislative efforts to make school lunches free for all students.
The new pro-privatization School Board voted 5-2 in favor of Hillsdale’s application.
An analysis of the fiscal impact of the Hillsdale charter in Rutherford County reveals a first-year taxpayer cost of $3.4 million and a cost at full enrollment of $7 million.
Two key takeaways here:
The Rutherford County School Board has committed the district and county taxpayers to an ongoing, recurring expense of $7 million to fund a right-wing charter school that offers dubious educational value.
American Classical Academy could use the approval in Rutherford to bolster appeals to the State Charter Commission in the four other districts.
This is the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent.
Keep in mind that Gov. Lee promised Hillsdale a network of up to 50 charter schools back in his 2022 State of the State Address.
If Hillsdale is successful at growing to this scale, local taxpayers in suburban and rural districts in Tennessee could end up paying as much as $350 million a year in extra expenses to operate a charter network for a college in Michigan.
Oh, and the President of the that college has not only insulted Tennessee’s teacher but also encouraged violent revolution in service of his vision of “education reform.”
In another story about an organization targeting Tennessee schools, Vice has a fascinating report about the inner workings of the book banners over at Moms for Liberty.
The group’s methods, however, belie the wholesome vision it tries to project. VICE News has spoken to students, administrators, parents, superintendents, school board members, and teachers who have faced vicious attacks by Moms for Liberty. Their stories paint a picture of a group that conducts orchestrated harassment campaigns against individuals, that’s resulted in many fearing for their safety and, in some cases, their lives.