Scrutinized charter school group to apply again in Tennessee

Dec 5, 2022, 8:18 PM | Updated: Dec 6, 2022, 10:26 am
FILE - A woman wearing a button supporting charter schools linked to Hillsdale College sits in fron...

FILE - A woman wearing a button supporting charter schools linked to Hillsdale College sits in front of a woman holding a sign opposing the schools during a meeting of the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission staff on Sept. 14, 2022, in Murfreesboro, Tenn. A contentious charter school operator linked to a conservative Michigan college is taking another swing at opening schools in three Tennessee counties that have previously rejected it, as well as in two new counties. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A contentious charter school operator linked to a conservative Michigan college is taking another swing at opening schools in three Tennessee counties that have previously rejected them, as well as in two new counties.

The letters of intent to apply to run charter schools were submitted by American Classical Education, an operator of charter schools that is supported by Hillsdale College, which licenses the curriculum for free and provides training and other resources. The previous debate over the charter schools unfolded in the wake of controversial comments about teachers made by Hillsdale College’s president, Larry Arnn.

American Classical Education intends to apply to run schools in Clarksville-Montgomery, Rutherford and Jackson-Madison counties, board member Dolores Gresham said in a statement. School boards in those counties rejected their applications and the group dropped its appeals in September. The company also submitted letters of intent to open schools in Maury and Robertson counties, Gresham said.

Hillsdale College, a small Michigan school that holds outsize influence with Republican politicians, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, has said it does not operate or manage the charter schools. But critics have questioned how independent American Classical Education and other charter operators are, citing times that Hillsdale officials have shown up as board members for the organizations.

Hillsdale began its charter schools initiative in 2010. Previously, Arnn said Lee wanted 100 Hillsdale-linked charters in Tennessee, but Arnn announced plans to open 50. None have have been approved to date.

Arnn recently spearheaded the “1776 Curriculum,” inspired by former President Donald Trump’s short-lived “1776 Commission,” a direct response to The New York Times’ “1619 Project” focusing on America’s history of slavery. Curriculum materials have been criticized as glorifying the founders, downplaying America’s role in slavery and condemning the rise of progressive politics.

During a private reception earlier this year, Arnn made controversial remarks about teachers, including a declaration that educators are “trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.” Lee, who was on stage with Arnn during some of his remarks, did not condemn the statements, which were revealed by a TV station, but has tried to tone down his admiration for the college since then.

Lee’s Democratic opponent tried to use the issue against him on the campaign trail, but the Republican-voting state still reelected Lee in a landslide last month.

American Classical Education abandoned its applications in the initial three counties in September after it sought and failed to receive a delay to its presentation before the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. Afterward, Gresham hinted that the organization would regroup and try again, saying it still believed there would be “many future opportunities in Tennessee as there are in most of America.”

Letters of intent were due 60 days before the Feb. 1 application deadline to start a charter school for the 2024-2025 school year.

“In the past few months we’ve heard from thousands of Tennessee families who are interested in classical charter schools,” Gresham, a former Republican state senator who once chaired the powerful Senate education committee, said Tuesday. “We remain committed to working with communities where there is interest and demand from families for schools with classical curriculums.”

The renewed push drew quick criticism from Democrats.

State Rep. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville tweeted that Hillsdale “took a backseat in September before the election in November, as Hillsdale charter schools are incredibly unpopular.”

“But guess what, they’re baaaaaack,” she continued.

Hillsdale’s prominence has strengthened among conservatives amid the national debate over the role schools should play in teaching race and sexuality. South Dakota, for one, turned to a former Hillsdale politics professor to write proposed social studies standards for its public schools. They align with the “1776 Curriculum.”

Local Tennessee school boards cited various reasons for rejecting American Classical Education’s applications, including shortcomings about the curriculum and insufficient plans to serve disabled children. The Tennessee Public Charter School Commission held public hearings over the rejected applications before the group withdrew from the appeals process.

Gresham maintains that the charter school operator withdrew the appeals in part because of “limited time” the group argued was needed to address concerns raised by the state commission.

The commission rejected a delay, citing timeline requirements for those appeals in state law.

In one of the new counties targeted for a school this time, Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt threw her support behind the push.

“We need to provide families with additional school choice options and we all want what’s best for each individual student and his or her needs,” Butt, a former GOP state representative, said in a statement.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

President Joe Biden talks with Vice President Kamala Harris after the State of the Union address to...
Associated Press

Biden makes Wisconsin his 1st stop after State of the Union

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday was headed to Wisconsin, a battleground state he won by the slimmest of margins in 2020, to press his economic message and other themes from his State of the Union address in the window before his next big speech: announcing a possible reelection bid. Biden was set […]
1 day ago
FILE - People walk amongst the debris at the crash site of a passenger plane near the village of Gr...
Associated Press

International team to present update on MH17 investigation

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — An international team is presenting an update Wednesday on its investigation into the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine. The announcement comes nearly three months after a Dutch court convicted two Russians and a Ukrainian rebel for their roles in shooting down the Boeing 777 and […]
1 day ago
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U...
Associated Press

China says it was smeared in Biden State of the Union speech

BEIJING (AP) — China says it was smeared in U.S. President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address that repeatedly mentioned competition between the two countries. China does not fear competing with the U.S. but is “opposed to defining the entire China-U.S. relationship in terms of competition,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said at a […]
1 day ago
FILE - A sign is shown on a Google building at their campus in Mountain View, Calif., Sept. 24, 201...
Associated Press

Google hopes ‘Bard’ will outsmart ChatGPT, Microsoft in AI

Google is girding for a battle of wits in the field of artificial intelligence with “Bard," a conversational service apparently aimed at countering the popularity of the ChatGPT tool backed by Microsoft.
1 day ago
South Korean Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min arrives to attend a meeting on integrated de...
Associated Press

South Korean lawmakers impeach minister over crowd crush

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s opposition-controlled parliament on Wednesday voted to impeach the country’s interior and safety minister, Lee Sang-min, holding him responsible for government failures in disaster planning and the response that likely contributed to the high death toll in a crowd crush that killed nearly 160 people in October. The impeachment […]
1 day ago
A sign stands on a quiet day in what used to be AmericaÅfs largest overseas naval base at the Subi...
Associated Press

US forces returning to Philippines to counter China threats

SUBIC BAY, Philippines (AP) — Once-secret ammunition bunkers and barracks lay abandoned, empty and overrun by weeds — vestiges of American firepower in what used to be the United States’ largest overseas naval base at Subic Bay in the northern Philippines. But that may change in the near future. The U.S. has been taking steps […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Scrutinized charter school group to apply again in Tennessee