Teacher’s Union And School Boards Continue To Fight Against Option For Students To Receive Classical Education In Tennessee (Update)

***8.31.22 – Updated section in bold toward bottom of article.***

Image Credit: American Classical Academy / Instagram

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

To date, three school boards in Tennessee have denied American Classical Academy’s applications to open charter schools in Rutherford, Madison and Montgomery counties.

American Classical Academy / American Classical Education (ACE), affiliated with Hillsdale College, sought to open privately operated charter schools that focus on classical education, that according to their website, would “develop within its students a foundation of virtue and knowledge by delivering a rigorous, classical, liberal arts education with a strong emphasis on the rights and duties of American citizenship.”

ACE charges that the decisions of the school boards were motivated by politics and based on the school system’s affiliation with Christian Conservative Hillsdale College and the recent comments made by the school’s president Larry Arnn.

ACE has filed appeals with the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. They state that Madison and Rutherford county’s school boards failed to “keep the politics out of the process” and state that school board members did not examine the merits of their application and only took into account the religious and political views of Larry Arnn and ACE’s board members.

ACE argues that the affiliation with Hillsdale is irrelevant in regards to the legal requirements or best practices that should be considered when approving a charter school.

Further, ACE charges that the decisions of the school boards could be construed as a violation of ACE’s board members’ constitutional right to gather and share beliefs with like-minded individuals.  

The negative decisions of the school boards are but the latest in a series of volleys launched against those who are attempting to expand school choice in the Volunteer state.

Teacher unions, Democrats, RINOs and left-leaning media have been attempting to hold back school choice efforts with lobbying, mailers and consistently negative coverage of Hillsdale College and to a lesser extent, ACE.

The Tennessee Education Association (TEA) has issued statements condemning Arnn’s comments and mailed flyers out to Democrat voters urging them to crossover vote in the Republican primary for incumbent candidates Representative Bob Ramsey and Senator Richard Briggs, neither of whom support School Choice.

The Tennessee House Education Committee chair, Representative Mark White stated in July that Hillsdale will not be part of the solution to Tennessee’s educational problems and that their hopes to open charter schools in the state have been “shattered.”

The Tennessee Education Association’s chief lobbyist, Jim Wyre, wrote in blog post, “We’ll keep fighting and we won’t rest until the entire charter industry is on the run.”

However, the TEA was condemning charter schools as far back as 2010 by claiming that charter schools were an attempt to privatize education and they would take funding away from public schools.

Some Tennessee school boards, following Arnn’s comments, followed the TEA’s lead in condemning Arnn and his comments. 

The Hamilton County School Board sent a letter condemning Arnn’s comments signed by the majority of the school board members with school board members James Walker (District 9), Rhonda Thurman (District 1) and Joe Smith (District 3) refusing to sign.

Spectator.org reports that Madison County, one of the districts that denied the American Classical Academy’s application, passed a resolution stating that it is not “in the best interest” to expose students to a school with ties to Arnn because of his “racially insensitive” comments and views towards public school teachers.

Two of the school districts imply that the Christian Conservative standing of Hillsdale and by association, ACE is part of their reasoning for rejection.

The office of the superintendent in Madison County stated the ability to select a “diverse workforce” and “diverse student body” as some of its concerns with the American Classical Academy.  

In Rutherford County, “diversity of thought” was listed as an issue.  The review committee has issues with the fact that the American Classical Academy’s application mentioned a “philosophical and moral alignment” and cited ACE’s “indisputable ties with Hillsdale College, a self-described conservative, Christian institution.”

Next month , the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission has scheduled public hearings that could potentially overturn the school board’s decisions in Madison, Montgomery and Rutherford counties.  With their decision being final, if they choose to side with ACE, the school would then be allowed to open charter schools in those counties.

However, should the Commission vote against ACE, the school system may have cause for a legal case against the Commission and the school districts for denying its applications based upon the affiliation with a Christian Conservative college.

Based upon a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, the commission and the school board’s decisions may violate ACE’s freedom of speech and religion making the decisions potentially discriminatory since Tennessee allows left-leaning charter schools but has recently excluded right-leaning, Christian schools. 

RePublic Schools, one of the left-leaning charters in Tennessee, argues that education should be political and with an author from the school writing in a blog post during the Trump administration that “resistance took on urgent, even life-or-death, importance.” The school also listed a core value as being to “lead for racial equity.”

Another charter, Believe Memphis Academy, just this year expressed strong support for Black Lives Matter, DEI, and Social Justice in its culture statement.

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Education Association and its agents continue to condemn the American Classical Academy for its ties to Hillsdale. 

However, Dr. Kathleen O’Toole, assistant provost for K-12 education for Hillsdale College, told Spectator.org that the American Classical Academy’s association with Hillsdale is misleading, stating that Hillsdale offers free advice in the form of conferences, curriculum, board training, and teacher training to ACE and that none of ACE’s schools that are planning to open in a particular area are the result of a Hillsdale college presence or planned presence.

Even though the majority of Tennessee voters favor school choice, their children do not currently have the option to learn about American exceptionalism as taught by ACE and Hillsdale.

Instead, the TEA continues to influence school board votes based on their politics and opposition to school choice.

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

7 thoughts on “Teacher’s Union And School Boards Continue To Fight Against Option For Students To Receive Classical Education In Tennessee (Update)

  • August 30, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    Hey we all know the Marxist influence on public education and on the teacher’s unions. It’s why our o really education scores are abysmal. The lock on education should be with the parents and not the school system. So I hope the ACA sues these school boards and the unions and bleed them out. Then parents of conscience need to take over the boards and real competition emerge. Especially in the communities of the disadvantaged . Give them tools to succeed. End the tyranny of unions.

    • August 30, 2022 at 4:39 pm

      WELL SAID it is past time we took our schools back, get unions and the government out of them

    • August 31, 2022 at 4:20 pm

      Great comments!!!!!!!!!!!
      100 percent correct

  • August 31, 2022 at 4:19 pm

    Get rid of all Unions in out state. Especially the teachers union. Tennessee and all states need to go back to before there were teachers unions. Get all federal government out our state business.
    Quit taking government money. You will in fact loose all your state independence and control

  • August 31, 2022 at 5:07 pm

    All of the comments above sound good but are essentially useless commentary. Until we stop talking and start doing, the status quo will remain the same. Some suggestions: Force Tn legislators to give the power of education back to the people, Any Legislator who votes against home rule shall not be re-elected. All educators from top to bottom, including teacher be made subject to recall if their performance doesn’t meet community standards. Imprisonment should be on the table for any educator who violates the laws regarding what can and cannot be taught and discussed. Lawyers and Prosecutors who refuse to enforce any law should be immediately removed from office, no exceptions. When we start doing these things, change will happen, relatively, quickly. These points are just for starters.

    • September 4, 2022 at 6:01 pm

      If our public school system was good, or even acceptable, the TEA would not have to take a stand about a parents right to choose a valuable Classic education for their kids. I’m just sick of the leftists ranting and raving -when they are adding SEL to their curriculum- and “weighting” the amount of money given per student through TISA in a way that is totally unfair to the average white kid. I would like to see equality rather than equity. I think the equity system is totally demeaning to students of color. If “choice” were given to families, it might finally bring up TN reading and math scores, as the public schools would have to get more educationally competitive.

  • September 2, 2022 at 6:59 am

    Penny Schwimmer Tn Edu Comm what exactly is your job?
    Please explain that to us, so we r sure of what we r paying for


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