Sumner Education Advocates Speak Out Against Charter School

Advocate Andy

Parents, pastor ask state charter commission to reject application from Founders Classical Academy

A group of public education advocates gathered today at a hearing by the Tennessee State Charter School Commission in Sumner County. The group urged the Commission to reject a charter school application from Founders Classical Academy. The Sumner County School Board previously rejected the application from Founders and the charter school is now appealing to the State Commission.

Rev. Matt Steinhauer, lifelong Sumner County resident and retired ELCA pastor, emphasized that the local school board has already voted twice against this charter school and that if the State Charter School Commission votes to allow Founders Classical Academy into their community it would override the will of the community and the school board. "I think we can all agree that all Tennessee children, all of them, deserve access to a high-quality education with high quality curriculum that meets state standards and prepares all students to become successful and productive adult members of our community. Forcing charter schools into our local school districts makes this harder to achieve when what we should be doing is making sure that our public community schools are invested in as much as any other state." 

One local parent spoke about the lack of accountability should the charter application be approved by the State Commission.

Wes Duenkel, Sumner County parent and public school advocate, started by saying that public education is America's greatest innovation and the tide that raises all boats. He expressed concern that charter schools that are approved by the State Commission and not the local school board, do not have an appropriate amount of accountability, yet they use local taxpayer dollars that should be sent to local community schools. "Accountability is a major factor of why I'm personally opposed to charter schools. This charter school is unaccountable to parents and taxpayers, yet we as taxpayers will be forced to funnel money to this charter but will have no input on how the funds are spent, who is teaching those children, and what those teachers are taught. [...] This charter school will only answer to an unelected commission handpicked by the governor. There is zero local control." 

One former Sumner County School Board member spoke about why he was among the board members who voted to reject the application from Founders.

Jeff Duncan, former Sumner County School board member and parent of two children currently attending Sumner County Schools, shared why the school board voted against Founders Classical Academy twice in the past five months. "Today's meeting is about opportunity. Sumner County Schools afford opportunities for kids to get Advanced Placement for college, they can actually graduate with college credits in a dual enrollment program, and we have career and technology certification where those students also complete college credit. So the opportunities afforded students in Sumner County are vast. So, the big question is, 'why does this classical academy get a third round shot at becoming a true charter school in our district when they don't equal the opportunity that Sumner County affords their students today?' In the last two applications they did not include a proper budget. They did not include a location to actually have a school, and they made multiple statements that they were a 'pen and paper school' and technology would not be a part of their degrees. In this day and age students must have technology training to exist in our society and to be successful." 

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Andy Spears is a middle Tennessee writer and policy advocate. He reports on news around public policy issues - education, health care, consumer protection, and more.

Nashville, TN

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