MAURY COUNTY, Tennessee (WKRN) — The Maury County School Board twice rejected American Classical Academy’s applications to open a school in the district, but the controversial charter school still decided to appeal the decision to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission.
“What’s obvious to us, and this is always the case, is families here want it,” said Phillip Schwenk with American Classical Academy (ACE).
ACE is affiliated with Hillsdale College, a conservative, Christian school.
Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn made headlines last year for saying to Gov. Bill Lee at a conference, “Teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”
American Classical Academy has applied to start schools in other LEAs like Clarksville-Montgomery and Robertson, but so far, only Rutherford County has approved it after citing the county’s growth.
The director of the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission said she would announce her recommendation on Thursday, Oct. 5.
The public comment portion of the appeal highlighted the strong feelings on both sides of the issue.
“We are just looking to add another choice for parents who may not be able to have the option of sending their children to a private school,” said Maury County Mayor Sheila Butt.
State Representative Scott Cepicky (R-Culleoka), who represents part of Maury County, pushed back on arguments, stating an additional charter school will take resources away from the students that need them most.
“Minority students are trapped in failing schools,” Cepicky said. “This would provide an opportunity for them to seek a better outcome for them.”
Those opposed to American Classical Academy coming to Maury County also said there are holes in their plans.
“It does not meet state quality guidelines and approving it is not in the best interest of this county,” said one person who spoke in opposition.
“It worries me that this charter school will become similar to the religious private schools Maury has so many of,” another said.
One man argued Maury County should wait until ACE’s Rutherford County school is running before making a decision.
“I would ask the same indulgence from the state to allow us to see how they do in Rutherford County before we approve a charter here in Maury,” he said.
In response, Schwenk said they plan to show people how successful their schools can be.
“Wait until you see how it does and then, you know, jump on the bandwagon,” he said.
Schwenk said their target for enrollment for the first year in Rutherford County is 340 students.