NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A Hillsdale College-affiliated charter school operator has now asked a state commission to override local school boards in Rutherford County and Clarksville-Montgomery County.
American Classical Academy — part of a network endorsed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee — filed the appeals Friday, asking the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission to allow them to open the taxpayer-funded, privately operated schools in those counties despite the school boards' rejection of their proposals.
Earlier this week, the group appealed a similar decision in Jackson-Madison County.
Appealing the Rutherford County decision, American Classical Academy Rutherford said the board's decision was "colored by a political response to unrelated statements made by Hillsdale College’s president, Dr. Larry Arnn, instead of being based on the merits of the application and its promise to serve Rutherford County students well."
"In its review of the amended application, however, published shortly before the Board met and after the Hillsdale president made comments having nothing to do with ACAR, the committee suddenly raised concerns with 'the applicant’s indisputable ties with Hillsdale College, a self-described conservative, Christian institution,'” the appeals argues.
"Denying a charter school application because some of the members of the proposed governing body attended or are affiliated with a 'conservative, Christian institution' has nothing to do with the legal requirements or best practices in charter school authorizing."
Arnn, the Hillsdale College president, was caught on hidden-camera video saying that public school teachers come from "the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges" and that no special expertise was needed for teaching, that "anybody can do it."
In the case of Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools, the American Classical Academy appeal rejects school officials' concerns about the charter school planning to seek waivers of state rules for teachers.
American Classical Academy Montgomery, for example, plans to pay teachers less than what their peers in traditional public education receive.
"Authorizing ACAM, particularly in a district straining to meet the needs of a growing number of school-age children, is in the best interests of these pupils, the district, and the community," the appeal states.
On an unrelated matter, Oxton Academy also appealed a decision by the Clarksville-Montgomery County board rejecting its application to open a high-school serving at-risk students.
A board review team had recommended approval.
The state Public Charter School Commission now has 75 days to act on those appeals.
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