Christian Curriculum

Lawmakers say fear of rejection fueled Hillsdale pullout – Tennessee Lookout

State lawmakers believe American Classical Education, affiliated with Hillsdale College, was inevitably dismissed when it abruptly withdrew appeals from charter schools last week.

Public opinion turned against Michigan’s private Christian college in midsummer when its president was secretly recorded at an event in Franklin saying teachers are being educated in “the dumbest parts of colleges.” dumbest people in the country. He also said Hillsdale would prove that in Tennessee anyone can be a teacher.

But American Classical Education, an offshoot of Hillsdale, withdrew the appeals from consideration before the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission less than a week before they were due to be considered. The appeals were necessary because his applications were denied by school boards in Rutherford, Madison and Montgomery counties.

“Obviously they had had problems at the local level. … I suspect they felt that concerns raised locally would likely filter through as well,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol.

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Memphis Democrat who serves on the Senate Education Committee, said Tuesday she was concerned about the college’s 1776 curriculum, a Hillsdale curriculum guide inspired by the ancient President Donald Trump who downplays the contributions of black Americans.

Charter schools are officially considered part of the public school systems in Tennessee, but they are operated by private organizations and receive state and local public funding. The state commission is due to consider three more appeals Wednesday at 1 p.m. and seven more next week.

The withdrawal could have been an effort to reduce embarrassment at the state level. The legislature could also have gone back and reduced the commission’s authority had it approved the American Classical nominations.

In at least one public hearing, the principal of the public charter school, Tess Stovall, raised questions about the change in the composition of the board of directors of American Classical Education, during which several people from Tennessee were added to shine its credentials. Stovall pointed out that the commission would be put in the position of approving a deal with a new council that did not file the application.

When Stovall raised the issue, an American Classical official told him the commission would have to worry about board composition later.

Sen. Ferrell Haile, a member of the Senate Education Committee, said Tuesday it was “obvious” what prompted American Classical to pull out.

“It was the public outcry over the comments of the president of this institution,” said Haile, R-Gallatin. “I think there’s an overreaction there… His comments were completely out of place and out of place, but I think there’s value in the program they’re doing.

Haile noted that Hillsdale is not a charter school but provides curriculum and support for a network of charter schools, and he added, “I think there’s value there that we’re going to miss. But sometimes that’s how politics is. Sometimes you cut your nose to upset your face.

Haile said he had no idea about American Classical’s thought process, but said his assumption was that “the tumult hasn’t died down” and that the chartered organization “didn’t seen as a way forward for the moment”.

“I think there’s value there that we’re going to miss. . . Sometimes you cut your nose to spite your face,” said Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin of Hillsdale College-supported charter schools. (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Former state senator Dolores Gresham, a board member of American Classical, claimed parents would not be able to travel to Nashville for hearings during fall recess this week before the Public Charter School Commission. , who denied a request to delay the case because it allegedly exceeded the 75-day approval deadline.

Gresham, who chaired the Senate Education Committee during his tenure, did not rule out a possible return of the organization to Tennessee where Hillsdale President Larry Arnn said he plans to open 50 schools. chartered and Governor Bill Lee said he wanted 100 of the schools.

“We believe, with complete conviction, that there will be many future opportunities in Tennessee, as in most of the United States,” Gresham said in a statement. “The national movement away from monopolistic public schools is an expression of the fact that parents have a natural love and therefore a natural say in how their children are taught in school.”

Gresham argued that this was proven by parents who spoke to Public Charter Schools Commission staff at recent hearings.

“This remains a much stronger claim than the claim of bureaucracy that continues to stifle quality public education options for families. After all, parents are the purest form of ‘local control’ when it comes to their child’s education,” she said in the statement.

Questions have, however, been raised about the Hillsdale program and whether it misrepresents the significance of the historical contributions of black Americans and Martin Luther King’s assertion that the force of law should be used to support the civil rights movement.

State Sen. Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat from Memphis who serves on the Senate Education Committee, said Tuesday that she was concerned about the college’s 1776 curriculum, a Hillsdale teacher’s guide prompted by the former President Donald Trump to focus on the accomplishments of the nation’s founders and offset a 1619 curriculum that gave the treatment of black Americans a more central role in American history.

The national movement away from monopoly public schools is an expression of the fact that parents have a natural love and therefore a natural say in how their children are taught in school and what they learn.

– Delores Gresham, former state senator and board member of American Classical Schools

Instead of telling the story, however, Hillsdale’s curriculum inserts its own take on the civil rights and women’s liberation movements into the classroom.

Akbari said American Classical’s withdrawal was “appropriate, given their 1776 curriculum, their utter contempt and contempt for teachers, as expressed this summer, and then the rhetoric that came out of some of their professors in their university”.

More importantly, however, the Senate Minority Caucus chairman said local school boards rejected the organization’s nominations and the “displeasure” expressed by lawmakers that they would be struck down by the Public Charter Schools Commission. , added Akbari.

The General Assembly first embraced the prospect of Hillsdale bringing charter schools to Tennessee, Akbari said, but the “backlash” built over the summer, and the pullout appears to be a “high point.” of that, said, based on their agenda, their rhetoric, and “how they were trying to get their way into Tennessee.

State Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, said Hillsdale and American Classical saw that “Tennessee, even though it’s a conservative state, is not radical in that sense.” Thus, they realized that now would not be the right time to continue pushing their calls.

“I hope they don’t try to come back,” Hakeem added.

Hakeem is nonetheless pleased with how Chattanooga charter schools operate, saying their “good staff” have been successful in helping students who couldn’t “move fast enough.”

Hakeem, a member of the House Education Administration Committee and an advocate for public schools, also expressed concern about the composition of the Public Charter School Commission, which has several members involved in charter school organizations and SCORE, which is a player major. promoter of the charter school in the state.

It is unclear, however, whether legislation will be proposed to change the council or its process.

Lundberg said he believes the Public Charter Schools Commission is an “independent” body even though its nine members are appointed by the governor. He sees no need to change the charter school application process or remove final authority from the state commission.

The State School Board previously held the final decision on charter school applicants who were rejected by local boards. Even Akbari said she was not comfortable with this process and tended to support the creation of the charter commission.

Haile noted that the state commission needs people with charter school expertise, but he also pointed out that local boards feel “threatened” by charters and are “very protective.”

“Maybe it provides balance,” he said.