CV NEWS FEED // A Tennessee school district blocked a Hillsdale charter school from opening, while local public schools rank at an all-time low.
The Jackson-Madison County District’s public schools blocked the Hillsdale charter school American Classical Education (ACE) earlier this week, a decision that was met with dismay from local families and educators.
“Since last fall, we’ve heard from more than 7,000 Tennessee families who want a public classical charter school for their children,” wrote American Classical Education officers Phillip Schwenk and Alexandria Spry in an opinion piece for the Jackson Sun. “American Classical Education is in the Jackson-Madison community for one reason—because families have expressed an overwhelming desire to have us here.”
With local public schools receiving all-time low rankings, according to Public School Review, it’s no wonder families cheered on the charter school.
Madison District’s average math proficiency score is 10%, compared to the Tennessee public school average of 27%. Reading proficiency is slightly better at 17%, compared to a 30% state average and a 46% national average.
The public schools in Madison are rated 1/10, falling in the bottom half of Tennessee’s public schools.
Meanwhile, District Superintendent Marlon King makes a six-figure salary of $185,000 as of 2020, the Jackson Sun reported. That’s $10,000 more than the previous superintendent.
“The superintendent tweeted #winning after denying our application and signing a 51-point checklist which is nothing more than an empty publicity stunt,” continued the ACE officials:
Celebrating denying school choice to kids who need it is a failure to lead in a manner consistent with the needs of many students, and that kind of failure is certainly not something to brag about. …We’ve addressed every single one of their concerns, and if this was really about students and their families, that would make a difference.
In a statement shared with CatholicVote, ACE board member Dolores Gresham responded to the decision:
This is disappointing, but not surprising that the Jackson-Madison school district ignores the voices of parents and instead sides with opponents of school choice who oppose any and all options outside of zoned public schools—regardless of their performance metrics.
Gresham wonders why the district school board insists on preventing families from having alternative options for education.
“Why are they so afraid of giving families options to choose from versus forcing students to attend only one school regardless of how the school is performing or if it’s a good fit for each student?” Gresham wrote in her statement.
“It’s disheartening that the local education bureaucracy continues to deny students options, particularly when Jackson-Madison has three schools on the state’s priority list—which means they are in the bottom five percent of all schools in the state,” the statement continued.
So on July 25, ACE appealed to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission to overturn the local county’s decision.
In the Commission Appeal Statement shared with CatholicVote, Gresham further critiqued the school commission, saying that “many of the Board’s reasons for denial are not based on application requirements.”
“The board issued a 74-point checklist for denial – many of which are inaccurate and many of which ACE has already addressed.”