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Gov. Bill Lee has come under fire for a controversial plan to invite Hillsdale College in Michigan to run 50 or more charter schools in Tennessee.

Now, WKRN in Nashville reports that taxpayers funded a trip by Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn to a conference at Hillsdale.

With the governor’s new education spending plan, that could mean public dollars going to Hillsdale, a private Christian school in Michigan with close ties to former President Donald Trump’s administration.

According to the Transparent Tennessee website, in June of 2021, Tennessee taxpayers paid for Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s trip to Hillsdale to attend the school’s ‘American Classical Education 2021 Summer Conference”.

According to WKRN, Lee’s office said of the interactions with Hillsdale:

“We have invited Hillsdale to undergo the application process in an effort to introduce another high-quality k-12 public education option for Tennessee students.”

But here’s what Lee said about Hillsdale in his State of the State:

Two years ago, I traveled to Hillsdale College to participate in a Presidents Day celebration and spend time with champions of American exceptionalism.

For decades, Hillsdale College has been the standard bearer in quality curriculum and the responsibility of preserving American liberty.

I believe their efforts are a good fit for Tennessee, and we are formalizing a partnership with Hillsdale to expand their approach to civics education and K-12 education.

So, the press statement suggesting that Hillsdale has been “invited to apply” sounds a lot different than Lee’s words saying that Tennessee is “formalizing a partnership.” How does one walk back a nearly formalized partnership and turn it into a mere “invitation to undergo an application?” Does Hillsdale know Lee is backtracking amid pressure? Or is Lee attempting to obfuscate what is likely already a done deal?

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