Across Tennessee this past spring and summer, applications for charter schools affiliated with the controversial Hillsdale College were rejected by local school boards.
Larry Arnn, the leader of the Michigan-based Hillsdale, created a firestorm in July with contempt for Tennessee by saying educators are dumb and that anybody can teach, while Gov. Lee sat quietly on the same stage.
Starting this week, the state charter commission is holding hearings on whether to override the local decisions rejecting Hillsdale’s charters. Clarksville-Montgomery, Fayette, Jackson-Madison, Rutherford, Sumner, and Williamson are all in the Hillsdale crosshairs as the state commission meets on these out-of-state applications. TEA has been organizing a statewide pushback.
“Our association believes in local control. We fought the forming the state charter commission, we fought against its ability to override local decisions. In that fight we made sure there are avenues for locals to push back, and now is the time,” said TEA President Tanya Coats. “Out-of-state charter operators like Hillsdale should never be able to run privately operated schools with taxpayer dollars. The only way it will happen is if this state commission approves Hillsdale over local objections.”
Recent news stories have outlined how Hillsdale rarely, if ever, communicated with local officials in the application process, yet stayed in constant contact with state officials about their plans at all levels of the process. It is not lost on educators in the targeted counties that the hearings are held in the daytime when most people — including teachers — are working. There are only 15 slots available for two-minute public comments, and several hearings were fully booked by charter school backers shortly after hearing dates were announced.
“It’s clear Hillsdale has no concern for local government. They are scornful of our state and our public schools, and have little grassroots support,” said Coats. “We expect the charter commission, which is made up of Tennesseans, to not have the same contempt for our communities and local decision-making. But we all know this is the first year of many that we’ll be fighting these out-of-state special interests.”
If you have questions about the threat of charter schools opening in your area or what you can do in this current application process, email Drew Sutton at TEA Government Relations: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are the upcoming hearings on Hillsdale charter schools with links to the state website for posting written comments, to be submitted up to seven days after the hearing:
9/14/2022 9AM Rutherford County Schools Board Room, 2240 Southpark Dr., Murfressboro: written comments may be posted here.
9/15/2022 10AM Jackson-Madison School System Board Room 310, North Parkway, Jackson: written comments may be posted here.
9/16/2022 9AM Clarksville-Montgomery County School System Boardroom 621, Gracey Ave, Clarksville: written comments may be posted here.
9/20/2022 1PM Sumner County Schools Boardroom, 695 East Main Street, Gallatin: written comments may be posted here.
9/21/2022 9AM Williamson County Administrative Complex, 1320 West Main Street, Franklin: written comments may be posted here.
9/29/2022 11AM Fayette County, UT Somerville Center, Community Hall 214 Lakeview Rd. Somerville: written comments may be posted here.