Head of School at Rutherford Classical Academy Phillip Schwenk Announces New Charter School Will Be Located in La Vergne

Phillip Schwenk

Phillip Schwenk, the founding head of school at Rutherford Classical Academy, announced that the charter school will be located in La Vergne on Ingram Boulevard, close to I-24, and will accept 340 students the first school year.

The Rutherford County School Board voted last April to approve the building of the charter school by a vote of 5-2.

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American Classical Education Submits Charter School Applications in Five Tennessee Counties

Wednesday marked the deadline for charter school applicants to submit their packages to local school boards in counties where they wish to establish a new charter school, and American Classical Education (ACE) has submitted applications in five Tennessee counties.

ACE board member and former Tennessee State Senator Dolores Gresham, who retired while serving as Senate Education Chair in 2020, told The Tennessee Star the charter school operator submitted paperwork to  Rutherford, Clarksville-Montgomery, Jackson-Madison, Maury, and Robertson Counties.

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School Choice Expansion Continues to be a Priority for Tennessee Lawmakers

Governor Bill Lee took to social media on Wednesday to proclaim the week of January 22 – 28, 2023, School Choice Week in Tennessee.

He further tweeted that “Every parent should have the opportunity to pick the best school for their child.” The governor added, “[W]e continue to advocate for high-quality education that meets the needs of every individual student.”

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Ohio Gov. DeWine, 16 Other Governors Oppose Federal Charter School Intervention

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine joined 17 other governors in a letter calling on the Biden administration to remove a proposed rule that could limit charter school creation.

The administration’s rule would require new charter schools to demonstrate sufficient demand for the proposed school. The governors believe that means a relevant school district would have to be “over-enrolled” for a charter school to be able to apply for federal funding.

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Poll Shows Support for Charter School Expansion in Georgia

More than half of Georgia voters support an expansion charter schools in the state, according to a new poll.

The poll, which was conducted on behalf of the Georgia Charter Schools Association, showed 56% of registered voters in Georgia favor increasing the number of public charter schools in Georgia. Support for public charter schools also is strong with more than 6 out of 10 surveyed in favor of the schools.

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Ex-Obama Official Charged with Stealing $218,000 from Charter School He Founded

Seth Andrew

A former official in the Obama administration was charged Tuesday with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from a charter school he founded, and using the funds to help finance a luxury apartment in Manhattan.

Seth Andrew, who served in the Obama White House and Department of Education, was arrested on Tuesday and charged with wire fraud, money laundering, and making false statements to a financial institution in connection with a series of banking transactions he conducted in 2019.

Federal prosecutors allege that Andrew ripped off his own charter school organization, Democracy Prep Public Schools, to the tune of $218,005.

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Proposed Legislation Gives School Boards Decision-Making Authority Over School Closures During Public Emergencies

A bill filed Monday will give Tennessee school boards the ultimate decision-making authority about whether their schools should be open or closed during a public emergency. 

The filing of the legislation was accompanied by an announcement from the bill’s sponsors, Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) and Representative Kevin Vaughan (R-Collierville).

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Legislature Approves Bill to Create Charter School Authorizing Commission

The Tennessee Senate on Thursday approved legislation creating an independent state commission to approve public charter schools in Tennessee. Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-TN-31) is the sponsor of SB0796. The tracking information is here. The bill, which also passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, is a key part of Governor Bill Lee’s education initiatives designed to improve education opportunities for Tennessee students. Lee worked with local school districts to incorporate changes to the legislation. “I am pleased that Governor Lee worked with local schools districts and charter schools to gain unanimous support for the bill,” Kelsey said. “The new commission will ensure that charter school denials will be reviewed by a commission with expertise on quality schools. This law will help ensure that our children will have quality charter schools to attend in Tennessee.” The legislation creates the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission, whose core mission will be authorizing high-quality charter schools, which is currently administered by the State Board of Education, according to a press release from the Tennessee Senate Republican Caucus. Commission members will be appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature, WATE said. At least five members must come from school districts that have charter schools. Sen. Jeff…

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DeVos Visits Nashville for Roundtable Discussion, Visit with Charter School Ranked as One of State’s Leaders in Academic Growth

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is hosting U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in Nashville Monday. The visit by DeVos will begin with a roundtable discussion with families, educators, stakeholders and local elected leaders, according to a press release from the Tennessee Department of Education. That roundtable discussion will be closed to the press. DeVos will end her trip with a visit at 11:50 a.m. CDT to LEAD Cameron, a public charter middle school with a proven turnaround success story. According to school leadership, LEAD Cameron has moved from one of the state’s lowest performing “Priority Schools” to currently ranking in the top 5 percent for academic growth, the DOE’s press release said. Unlike the roundtable discussion, the LEAD Cameron visit will be open to the press. Since assuming the post of U.S. secretary of education in February 2017, DeVos has taken on the education bureaucracy and championed local control, as The Tennessee Star has reported. Natalia Castro, multimedia manager at Americans for Limited Government, wrote last year that DeVos is helping parents and schools get around burdensome federal laws like the the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, The Star reported. The Department of Education provided parents and schools with a…

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State Rep. Cochran Votes Against Charter School Bill After Reportedly Pledging to Vote for It

A bill reforming the Charter school process emerged from the House Education Committee on Wednesday and will move forward to the Government Operations Committee after receiving a 13-9 vote for passage. The legislation was initiated by Governor Bill Lee and is intended to streamline the charter school approval process while also improving the quality of the state’s charter school options. Charter schools are public schools, though operated independently from local school districts. The charter school legislation creates a nine-member commission, appointed by the Governor, to review appeals of charter applications denied by local school districts. Governor Lee has indicated that providing more charter school options, along with Education Savings Accounts that will permit more choices for parents and students in the worst performing school districts in the state, are the best path to improving the quality of education for thousands of Tennessee students. Five Republicans, Jim Coley (Bartlett), Mark Cochran (Englewood), Kirk Haston (Lobelville), Chris Hurt (Halls) and Terry Lynn Weaver (Lancaster), joined with four Democrats in opposing the bill. Cochran explained that while he is not philosophically opposed to charter schools he felt “rushed” to vote for this bill. Cochran had reportedly pledged his vote for the bill before…

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Ohio School Voucher Program Doubles as More Public Schools Fail to Make The Grade

After a staggering number of Ohio public schools failed to make the grade, the state’s voucher and charter school system is poised for tremendous expansion. In Ohio, if the public school test scores of a student’s home district fall below a certain level, calculated by the Ohio Department of Education, a number of the students are automatically granted vouchers to attend private school and charter schools are permitted to establish themselves. This is intended to both give children from every country access to quality schools and alleviate the student burden on the lagging school.  The public schools performed so poorly that charter schools will have 600 times more areas to expand into, and student access to vouchers will more than double. Teacher unions and many in the progressive activist community have aggressively opposed both school voucher programs and charter schools. They argue that these programs siphon off funding from the already financially strained school system. In addition, a number of private schools in Ohio were founded as religious institutions. While none can legally force children to engage in religious activity against their will, progressives maintain that as they are still religiously-oriented, it is a violation of the ‘separation church and state.’ Ironically, it was an…

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