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This One's About Hillsdale College
A Christian fundamentalist college from Michigan is poised to take over Tennessee public schools
There’s been a lot in the news lately about Hillsdale College following the school’s President making disparaging remarks about teachers at a private event featuring Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
Now, not only has Lee defended Arnn’s remarks and refused to apologize for his complicity in an attack on the teaching profession, but also Arnn has penned a piece wherein he makes a rather unapologetic apology:
I have said this many times, in public and in private, and will likely say it again. This time it was important because Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee was present. Many were outraged. I was not speaking for the governor, and I would rather do anything than embarrass him. If I have done that, I apologize to him.
As I noted in Tennessee Education Report:
In other words, Larry Arnn is sorry he got caught. Sorry that the backlash MAY cause a delay in the expansion of his empire of evangelical exceptionalism, may slow the flow of public dollars into his private institution.
Rutherford County recently voted on a Hillsdale charter and rejected the application by a 6-1 vote.
Following the denial, one advocacy group called on the state to sever all ties with Hillsdale and its radical agenda.
Rev. Donna Whitney, a pastor in Nashville and a member of the Southern Christian Coalition said:
"The comments made by Larry Arnn, President of Hillsdale College, an education advisor to Governor Lee, that 'teachers come from the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges' is just further proof that Governor Lee needs to distance himself from Hillsdale and abandon his attempts to bring Hillsdale Schools to Tennessee. These schools erase the line between church and state and are an attempt to bring White Christian Nationalism into our public schools."
While the Rutherford County School Board may not want a Hillsdale charter school, it is entirely possible that an unelected state board appointed by Lee will overturn the local decision and force a Hillsdale charter on a community that overwhelmingly rejected it.
Lee’s State Charter Commission now has authority to overturn local decisions and force charters into districts. In fact, the commission has already overturned a previous Rutherford County charter school rejection.
As I recently noted in The Progressive:
In January, Lee announced in his State of the State address that he’d reached an agreement with Arnn for Hillsdale to operate up to 100 charter schools in Tennessee. In the past, charter schools required local school board approval. Now, however, if local school boards deny a charter request, the charter operators can simply appeal to an unelected state charter school commission in which each member of this group is appointed by Lee.
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Will Anything Stop the Privatization of Public Schools?
While the Tennessee case is not encouraging, one might hope that in other states, defenders of public education would be gaining ground. One might even expect that Democrats would be using the threat to public education as a rallying cry.
In a great piece, Jennifer Berkshire explains why that’s not really happening.
These two paragraphs get to the heart of the argument - and the battle among Democrats over what to do about public education:
The results of the party’s swoon for free-market solutions to poverty can be summed up in the subtitle of Geismer’s book: “How the Democrats Failed to Solve Inequality.” Micro-enterprise partnerships between government and the private sector, on the model of the charter-school movement, would prove no match for entrenched poverty and segregation. And the Democrats’ attachment to free-market orthodoxy prevented the party from pursuing more ambitious and redistributive policies.
However, the New Democrats’ vision was successful in one key respect: Democratic strategists steadily weakened the grip of unions in the cause of pursuing moderate voters and Silicon Valley funders. The era of bashing teachers and their unions in the name of “education excellence” was officially under way.
Read all of it - it’s a great analysis of how the far right is driving the education policy debate and how some in the Democratic establishment can’t wait to muster attacks on public schools BEFORE the right gets to it.