The Look in Brief

Hillsdale’s American Classical Education officially appeals charter denials in Maury and Madison

By: - August 15, 2023 6:02 am
A four-piece mailer sent to households across the state from Hillsdale College leads with accusations against Nashville media.

A four-piece mailer sent to households across the state from Hillsdale College in 2022.

American Classical Education, a Hillsdale-College-affiliated charter school chain, continued its blistering critique of Madison and Maury counties’ school systems in its appeal to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, filed last week.

In letters attached to the appeal applications, American Classical board member Dolores Gresham — a former state senator — called the Maury charter approval process “illegitimate” and criticized the Madison board for a “lack of integrity in the review process.”

Both letters contain similar language and phrasing. There is also a spelling error where the school uses its Madison County proposed school abbreviation on its Maury school’s application. On a previous application, American Classical used Montgomery County in places it meant to put Madison County.

Photo of American Classical Education statement of intent to appeal its Maury County charter school denial, where it used the Madison abbreviation, ACAJM, instead of the Maury one, ACAM. (Tennessee Charter Commission)

The Lookout reached out to representatives from American Classical, but they had not responded by the time of publication.

Gresham’s letters follow an escalation in American Classical’s rhetoric toward the local charter school approval process. Following denials in July, American Classical’s public relations firm Rotunda Public Affairs and Gresham sent press releases criticizing each school system’s academic testing numbers.

The nine-member charter commission appointed by Gov. Bill Lee will have to hold at least one public hearing on each school before deciding whether to overturn the local school boards. The charter commission often, but does not always, overturn local denials.

Based on past precedent, the charter commission will hold those hearings in September or October and decide later in the year.

Hillsdale applications hint at links between charter school and Common Core

Last year, Madison, Montgomery and Rutherford counties school boards denied American Classical’s charter applications. The decisions came after a video surfaced showing Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn saying teachers were trained in the “dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges” while on a stage with Gov. Bill Lee.

Lee linked Hillsdale College and American Classical Education during his 2022 State of State speech when he announced the charter network was coming to Tennessee.

In 2022, American Classical initially appealed the local denials but backed out of the process before the charter commission could make a ruling.

American Classical applied for charters in Madison, Maury, Montgomery, Robertson and Rutherford counties this year. The Rutherford school board was the only county to approve the school at the local level.

American Classical decided not to appeal the denials in Montgomery and Robertson.


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Adam Friedman
Adam Friedman

Adam Friedman is a reporter with the Tennessee Lookout. He has a particular love for data and using numbers to explain all kinds of topics. If you have a story idea, he'd love to hear it. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 615-249-8509.