NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Hillsdale-backed “American Classical Education” is withdrawing its applications for charter schools in Tennessee.

The abrupt move comes ahead of a state commission’s appeals vote on the controversial issue.

At the beginning of the year, Governor Bill Lee said he wanted to bring 50 Hillsdale charter schools to Tennessee.

This summer, Hillsdale President Larry Arnn made comments about teachers, saying they are “trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country.”

Governor Lee then distanced himself from the organization, and three local school boards rejected an application for Hillsdale-backed charter schools in their counties.

News 2 spoke with Governor Lee Thursday, shortly after the decision from American Classical Education. We asked if he would support future opportunities with American Classical Education, given its affiliation with Hillsdale and President Arnn.

“What I really do support is choices for parents for their children’s education. We have a number of charter organizations in this state — 22 I believe,” Governor Lee stated. “High-quality charter schools are an integral part of our state’s public education system — 41,000 children are educated. It’s important to know that 90% are minority students. Those families, those parents need to have options.”

An appeals process has been ongoing, but now it is no more.

American Classical Education released a statement Thursday afternoon about the situation:

“American Classical Education has decided to withdraw its appeals to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. ACE initially asked for a delay to further address concerns and clarify confusion and misconceptions raised by the Commission staff in each of the public hearings earlier this month. We understand that the delay request was not granted. Additionally, when the Commission created additional public comment time for its meetings in October — we heard from many parents and students who will be on fall break during the newly reformatted Commission meetings and would be unable to travel to Nashville. This made us concerned that the Commission would not hear directly from the voices that really matter — the parents and students in these communities.

We believe, with complete conviction, that there will be many future opportunities in Tennessee as there are in most of America. The nationwide movement away from monopolistic public schools is an expression of the fact that parents have a natural love and, therefore, a natural say over how and what their children are taught in school. This parental love was evident in the efforts of the many parents who have supported our efforts and to whom we remain committed. It remains a much stronger claim than the claim of the bureaucracy that continues to stifle quality public education options for families. After all, parents are the purest form of “local control” when it comes to their child’s education. 

ACE remains committed to empowering parents and students to have access to high-quality public schools of choice. We look forward to applying for additional charter schools where local parents, teachers and students desire excellent education alternatives.” 

– American Classical Education board member Dolores Gresham