While the controversy over remarks made by Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn has Republicans – including Gov. Bill Lee – arguing with Bill Lee’s vision for a Hillsdale takeover of Tennessee public education, that hasn’t stopped Hillsdale-affiliated charter schools from continuing the quest for Tennessee tax dollars.
Phil Williams of NewsChannel5 reports that a Hillsdale-affiliated charter school in Madison County has appealed to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission to overturn the local decision to reject the school:
And, as Williams notes, while the school claims to be “separate” from Hillsdale, the top three proposed board members (Chair, Treasurer, and Secretary) are all current employees of Hillsdale.
I’ve written a lot about Hillsdale, and you can find a good summary of that here.
If, as Gov. Lee most recently said, a group of Hillsdale charter’s is “not his vision,” then now would be a good time for him to speak up and discourage the American Classical Academy from pursuing its appeal.
Of course, he won’t do that. While I’d love to write an article that says the state charter board has denied this appeal (and the likely similar appeals in Montgomery and Rutherford counties), I seriously doubt that will be the case.
Here’s what American Classical has to say about its work in Tennessee:
K-5 CLASSICAL CHARTER SCHOOLS WILL OPEN IN THESE TENNESSEE COUNTIES IN FALL 2023 (emphasis added).
It doesn’t say they’ve applied to open, or that in cooperation with local school boards, they plan to open. It says, “will open.”
And, despite the resounding rejection by local school boards, American Classical is appealing to the state charter commission which could greenlight them to open in 2023.
The American Classical site also includes this note about the schools it (so far) plans to open in 2023:
Montgomery County Classical Academy will begin by serving Kindergarten-Grade 5 with a planned enrollment of 325 students in our first year and add a grade each year until the school can offer a complete K-12 classical education experience.
That same verbiage is included in Madison and Rutherford counties.
Here’s the deal: 2023 is the first year of school funding under the new, TISA model. This means the charters stand to get more money – based of just under $7000 per student PLUS weights for a variety of categories.
Taking it at just the base, though, each of these districts stands to lose nearly $2.3 million in funding in YEAR ONE of the charter school opening.
While it may SEEM that the transfer of students would lead to a corresponding reduction in local costs, it likely won’t. First, it’s not like these students will all come from the same zone or school, so reducing staff at schools is unlikely. At best, you’d be looking at 2-3 teaching position reductions.
The districts, though, will still have the same fixed costs – transportation, building operation and maintenance, etc. They’ll just have about $2 million LESS to use to operate.
Here’s some insight from the costs associated with charters in Nashville:
In short, thanks to Bill Lee’s vision (the one he’s now trying to unsee), these three districts are likely to see a significant funding hit in 2023. And Hillsdale is likely to be cashing in on Tennessee tax dollars to advance its agenda of evangelical exceptionalism.
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