Public education advocates in Tennessee believe using taxpayer dollars to fund charter school expansion is a bad idea. But that’s exactly what Governor Bill Lee proposed budget would do. Lee has made a deal with a conservative college to open about 50 charter schools in the state.
Lee has made a deal with Hillsdale College, a small Christian liberal arts school in Michigan, to bring their civic education and K-12 curriculum to Tennessee. The school partners with dozens of charter schools throughout the U.S. to provide curriculum and training.
“High-quality charter schools are an important part of the equation in our public school system,” said Lee. “That includes classical education charter schools like Hillsdale.”
Hillsdale College dates back nearly two centuries, and its prominence has grown in recent years, in part because of its conservative stances. The school does not accept financial support from the federal government, which exempts it from many regulations regarding discrimination, especially around sexual orientation. The school says it has a long history of refusing “to discriminate based upon race, religion or sex,” a policy that means it will not even count its students based on their race.
The school also describes itself as a “trustee” of Western thought and describes social justice and multicultural diversity as “dehumanizing.” In the wake of the New York Times’ 1619 Project, which argued that slavery is an integral part of American history, last year Hillsdale launched a set of history and civics materials for K-12 students called the 1776 Curriculum that it says will “teach the truth of American history.”
The governor’s plan is drawing skepticism from the Tennessee Education Association. Beth Brown, the association’s president, says there is no need to bring in outsiders to implement a new curriculum or to set aside $32 million for new charter schools, a key element in the proposal.
“The concern is that we’re taking taxpayer dollars and we’re going to take those taxpayer dollars away from our public schools and give them to private entities,” said Brown.