School Board Approves New Charter School

Advocate Andy

American Classical Academy to open in Rutherford County in 2024

The Rutherford County School Board voted 5-2 in favor of approving an application from American Classical Academy to open a charter school in the district in 2024.

American Classical, affiliated with Michigan-based Hillsdale College, plans to open for grades K-5 with 340 students and then expand to a K-12 school with 690 students.

American Classical also applied to open charter schools in four other Tennessee school districts. Three of those (Robertson, Maury, and Montgomery) have already held hearings and denied the charter applications.

An analysis of the fiscal impact of the charter school shows it will have an initial cost to taxpayers of $3.4 million and at full capacity, would cost $7 million. This is in addition to funds already being spent to operate Rutherford County Schools.

The new expense is a factor of fixed costs - which don't decrease just because students move from one school to another.

Fixed costs account for at least 40 percent of some school districts’ budgets. Nationwide, Moody’s Investors Service found that a growing number of school districts face “financial stress” due to fixed costs. In Nashville, an independent study found that charter schools would, “with nearly 100 percent certainty, have a negative fiscal impact” on the local school district’s budget.

Donna Wright, retired school superintendent from neighboring Wilson County, says charter schools can often put a strain on local school budgets.

“Privately run charter schools that aren’t accountable to elected local school boards significantly strain local budgets, which already are being stretched thin by inflation and other cost pressures," Wright said.

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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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