Commentary: More Public Charter Schools are Needed Nationwide

School in class

Parents, children, and supporters of school choice have cause to celebrate this National Charter Schools Week.

Charter schools earned the top two spots on a list of the best high schools in America, according to a recent report by U.S. News & World Report. And, of the top 100 public high schools, charter schools claimed 19 spots—10 in Arizona alone—despite accounting for only 8% of all public schools in the country.

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Florida’s DeSantis Signs Education Reform Bill into Law

Ron DeSantis

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an education reform bill into law on Tuesday that will have long-reaching implications for the state’s education system.

House Bill 1285 does several things, including addressing school districts with “Turn-Around” status, repeals the Florida College System’s employment equity and accountability program and requires the State Board of Education to establish specialized teaching certificates for classical school educators.

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Commentary: Teacher Union Power Is Still in Full Bloom

CTA Event

As a result of the Janus decision in 2018, no teacher or any public employee has to pay a penny to a union as a condition of employment. The good news is that since then, 20% of workers in non-right-to-work states have dropped out of their unions, according to a report from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The not-so-good news is that 70% of teachers nationwide are still willingly paying union dues, a great deal of which goes to politics, specifically to progressive candidates and causes.

The California Teachers Association has the honor of being the biggest political-spending teachers’ union in the country. A recent report reveals that between 1999 and 2020, the 300,000+ member union spent an astonishing $222,940,629 on politics – about $6 million was spent on the federal level, while almost $217 million stayed in the state – with 98.2% of all spending going to Democrats. The top advocacy issues for CTA include regulating charter schools, immigration reform, social justice, and a slew of almost exclusively left-wing causes.

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Commentary: Charter Schools Rise to the Challenge

Due to pandemic-related issues, declining birthrates, inferior education, radical curricula, etc., government-run schools are bleeding students. Whereas traditional public schools (TPS) had 50.8 million students enrolled in 2019, the number had shrunk to 49.4 million one year later. The federal government now projects that public school enrollment will fall even further – to 47.3 million – by 2030, an almost 7% drop in 11 years.

Where are the kids going? The U.S. Census Bureau reports that families are moving to private schools and setting up home schools at a great rate. But what can parents do if they can’t home-school or afford a private school and there are no educational freedom laws on the books? Their option then would be charter schools, which are independently operated public schools of choice that aren’t shackled by the litany of rules and regs that TPS are encumbered with and, importantly, are rarely unionized.

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Pennsylvania Basic Ed Funding Hearings Wrap with Charter Schools

Student Homework

Pennsylvania’s Basic Education Funding Commission hearings ended in Harrisburg this week, where charter schools took center stage.

After months of painstaking reflection on the inadequacies of the state’s funding, charter school administrators were asked to defend against commentary from others within the educational community who believe that their schools are a drain on district budgets.

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Tennessee’s Public Charter School Commission Overturns Five Local Charter School Application Denials

At this year’s annual charter school appeals hearing, the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission (TPCSC) heard from eight proposed charter schools. State law permits charter authorizers who have been denied by the local authorizer to ask for reconsideration.

Established in 2022, as a means for those appeals to be heard, the commission has the power to overturn local decisions.

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Commentary: As Families Take to Charter Schools, Cities and Their Teacher Unions Throw Up Obstacles

A vote by the Los Angeles board of education vote last month to ban charter schools from sharing space at 300 district campuses is the latest big-city attack against alternatives to struggling traditional public schools.

With the strong support of United Teachers Los Angeles, school board members say the ban will protect black and Latino students from the disruption and harm that occurs when charters are placed in buildings used by other public schools. But charter advocates reject the board’s reasoning. Far from hurting disadvantaged students, charters in LA and other cities have established an outstanding track record in accelerating their academic performance compared with traditional schools, according to researchers.

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Education Choice Analysis Ranks Tennessee at No. 6 in the Nation

Tennessee ranked No. 6 nationally with a grade of B in the ALEC Index of State Education Freedom.

Grades were scored overall from tabulating funding and financing programs; charter schools; homeschooling; virtual schooling; and open enrollment. The overall score was 71.5 points, which trailed only Florida (95), Arkansas (92), Indiana (86.6), Arizona (84) and Iowa (78)

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Biden Official Bankrolls Group Claiming Charter Schools Teaching ‘Classics’ Are ‘Far-Right’ Ideologues

A Biden administration official is a major donor to an organization that characterized Christian charter schools teaching a classical education as “far-right” ideologues attempting to advance “Christian nationalism.”

The Department of Labor’s Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Thea Lee and her partner Mark Simon gave at least $5,000 in 2022, the highest level of sponsorship, to the Network for Public Education, a left-wing activist group focused on promoting public schools, according to the organization’s sponsors page. The Network for Public Education released a June 2023 report which notes that “right-wing ideology” is growing in charter schools that teach a “classical” or “traditional” education.

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Florida and Iowa Among the Handful of States Enacting New, Sweeping School Choice Legislation

So far in 2023, six states signed school choice legislation into law, giving millions of families and their children education options, including access to taxpayer-funded vouchers.

Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Utah, South Carolina and Oklahoma all signed legislation into law that makes at least some, if not all students within the states, eligible for taxpayer funded vouchers or a tax credit that can be used on education expenses such as private school tuition, textbooks and transportation. Under the legislation enacted in 2023, millions of students across the country are now able to attend schools outside their designated zip code or apply to receive funding in order to seek a private or a homeschool education.

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Former Tennessee State Sen. Dolores Gresham: Story Claiming American Classical Education Charter Schools’ ‘Core Knowledge’ Program Has ‘Links’ to Common Core Is False

American Classical Education (ACE) board member Dolores Gresham, a former Tennessee state senator, said Tuesday the story at Tennessee Lookout that claimed Hillsdale College’s affiliated ACE charter schools are teaching a curriculum with links to the Common Core Standards, is “false.”

“The Core Knowledge Foundation program is not the same thing as Common Core,” Gresham said in a statement. “It is decades older than Common Core and is already in use by many schools in Tennessee – including all three of Nashville’s top-performing charter schools.”

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Maury County Rejection of Charter School Application Tainted by Controversy over Alleged Plagiarism

In an email exchange late Wednesday night into Thursday morning, American Classical Education (ACE) CEO Joel Schellhammer called into question the originality of Maury County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Lisa Ventura’s report assessing American Classical Academy Maury’s (ACAM) application. As a result, says Mr. Schellhammer, ACE is “highly concerned about the integrity of the Maury County School Review Committee’s evaluation of [its] application.”

Maury County School Board Member Steve McGee told The Tennessee Star that “there’s a good possibility it could have affected the outcome [of the vote] had we known everything that was available.” 

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Maury County School Board Denies Charter School Application in Close Vote

COLUMBIA, Tennessee – The Maury County Board of Education narrowly rejected the application by American Classical Education to operate a charter school in the county in a vote of 6-5. 

An application review committee made a presentation about the different strengths and deficiencies of the school’s application in three different areas of qualification. The committee found that the school’s academic, operational, and financial plans only partially met the criteria of the rubric and thus recommended that the board deny the American Classical Academy Maury’s initial application. 

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Report Shows Massive Growth in Tennessee Charter Schools

A public policy group in Tennessee released a report this week showing a massive uptick in charter school growth in the Volunteer State. 

According the report by The Beacon Center of Tennessee, charter schools in Tennessee have increased in number from fewer than 20 in 2010 to more than 110 in 2019. Such schools have only become more popular since 2019, and more than 44,000 students in the state are enrolled in a charter school.

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New Bill Would Make Arizona Teacher Pay Increases Transparent, Require School Districts to Comply

Arizona State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) shared in his weekly update to constituents that his bill, aimed at ensuring school districts comply with the state transparency laws, is moving along through the Legislature.

“Given the importance of having transparency with such a critical topic as teacher pay, I sponsored a bill (SB 1599) that would add some teeth to the law and instruct the Arizona Department of Education to engage if a school district is not in compliance. The bill has passed the Senate and is poised for a House Floor vote,” Mesnard said.

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Florida Audit Shows Issues with Charter School Management and Transparency

A recent Florida audit of the state’s charter school administration still shows a lack of oversight and business dealings that could be seen as conflicts of interest.

The Florida Auditor General recently released a follow-up report into the day-to-day management and transparency of charter schools in the Sunshine State and there were several issues that still needed to be addressed.

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Speaker Sexton Proposes Expanded Charter School Offerings

A newly amended caption bill, HB1214, that would allow for the establishment of charter schools serving homeschoolers and boarding charter schools has made it out of the House K-12 Subcommittee.

In presenting the bill for the author, House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville), on Tuesday, State Representative Mark White (R-Memphis) appeared to be unfamiliar with many of the details associated with the amendment. He acknowledged as much, chalking it up to the “lightning speed” legislators had been operating under.

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Tennessee State Board of Education Releases State Charter School Authorizer Evaluations

At last week’s quarterly meeting, the State Board of Education (SBE) released its latest evaluation of Tennessee’s charter school authorizers. The State Board evaluates Tennessee’s six charter school authorizers at least every two years. In 2021 evaluations were delivered for Hamilton County Schools, Knox County Schools, and Shelby County Schools. That left the Achievement School District, Metro Nashville Public Schools, and the TN Public Charter School Commission for this year.

In 2019, Tennessee became the 4th state in the U.S. to implement authorizer evaluations when the State General Assembly passed legislation charging the SBE with conducting periodic evaluations of authorizers to determine authorizer compliance and evaluate quality. To bring this charge to fruition, the State Board partnered with SchoolWorks, an education consulting group with experience in authorizer evaluations.

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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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Ohio Governor DeWine Asks for Family and Education Policy Changes in State of the State Address

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine proposed major expansions of various social programs in his 2023 State of the State address to legislators in Columbus on Tuesday.

The Republican governor called on lawmakers to enact a variety of new policies to aid families through the budget for Fiscal Years 2024 and 2025. Those requests include allowing parents who adopted children from private agencies to access Medicaid coverage and expanding a home-visit program providing health assistance to expectant mothers. 

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MNPS Provides Marketing Budget for Individual Schools in Wake of Recent Enrollment Declines

Over the past several years, Tennessee lawmakers have increased school choice options for families. In an effort to influence parents’ educational choices, Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) is providing each school with a stipend designed to entice families to make zoned schools their first choice. It’s a continuation of a strategy first implemented last year, and one that the district feels was successful.

In an email, MNPS spokesman Sean Braisted tells The Tennessee Star, “Our goal as a district is to get as many families as possible to choose MNPS as their first option for student success.”

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Study: Students in Wisconsin Choice Schools Outperforming Public School Peers

On this National School Choice Week, a new study by the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty shows parental choice programs continuing to outperform public schools, particularly in the state’s largest city. 

“Apples to Apples: Accessing Wisconsin State of Education”, accesses Badger State educational performance across public, charter, and private voucher schools.

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Metro Nashville Public Schools Provides District Students with School Options for the 2023-24 School Year

On January 23rd, Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) will open the School Options Application period for the 2023 – 2024 school year. The open period will be extended until February 10th. Students, and their families, can choose to pursue enrollment in a district school outside their zoned school, a charter school, or in one of the district’s magnet and art school options.

Through this application process, MNPS provides families with an opportunity to find a school that might better suit their needs as compared to their zoned option. Not all district schools are considered eligible for outside-zone enrollment, due to capacity issues. All MNPS students have a guaranteed pathway to their zoned school.

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Sen. Obenshain Tries Again with Charter School Constitutional Amendment

Senator Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham) has introduced a constitutional amendment to add approving charter schools to the Virginia Board of Education’s powers.

“We’ve seen a huge number of parents move their children to private or homeschooling environments, and the only people who can’t take advantage of it are the people who can’t afford it. And I just don’t think that we ought to be depriving Virginians of a high-quality education either because they can’t afford it or because of the zip code we’re in,” Obenshain told The Virginia Star.

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Governor Lee Appoints Three to State Charter School Commission

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has reappointed Alan Levine to the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission. Along with Levine, Michael Carter of Davidson County and Chris Tutor of Shelby County have been submitted for approval as members. The two new members will represent Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee respectively, replacing Dr. Derwin Signet and Dave Hanson as board members. Appointments come from the governor, but must be confirmed by the General Assembly.

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Arizona Autism Charter Schools Receives Million-Dollar Yass Prize

Arizona Autism Charter Schools (AZACS), the only public school for students with autism in Arizona and the first in the west specifically designed to serve neuro-divergent learners, won the $1 million Yass Prize, education’s largest and most prestigious award.

Yass Prize honored the recipients of its awards Wednesday night at the New York Hilton in midtown Manhattan, a press statement said.

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Arizona Rep. Shawnna Bolick Calls for Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly to Defend Charter Schools

Arizona State Representative Shawnna Bolick (R-San Miguel) called on Senators Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) and Mark Kelly (D-AZ) to use their votes to protect charter schools around the nation from the Biden administration’s overreach.

“Will [Sinema] & [Kelly] stand with nearly 220K AZ public charter school kids and countless more families who support [school choice]? The teacher unions are using every tactic to drive a stake through [school choice],” tweeted Bolick

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Lifeline Scholarships Reintroduced in Pennsylvania House

Girl with brunette hair reading in a library

Pennsylvania state Representative Clint Owlett (R-Wellsboro) on Tuesday announced he will reintroduce legislation to guarantee school choice to students in the state’s most poorly performing school districts. 

Under Owlett’s proposed law, families of such students could also use the new “lifeline scholarships” to pay for textbooks, special-needs services and other qualifying expenses. 

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American Classical Education Announces Intent to Apply for Charter Schools in Five Tennessee Counties

American Classical Education (ACE) informed the Tennessee Department of Education and school boards of education in five counties – Rutherford, Montgomery, Madison, Maury, and Robertson – in separate letters last week it intends to apply for public school charters to operate classical schools in those five counties.

“We’ve filed our letters of intent with the school districts and the department,” Dolores Gresham, an ACE board member, former Tennessee State Senator, and former Senate Education Committee Chair, told The Tennessee Star.

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Arizona Charter School Students Outperforming Most of Nation

Arizona’s charter schools, if separated from their public school counterparts, have eight graders that perform at higher levels than nearly any other state.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, better known as the Nation’s Report Card, found that Arizona district and charter students scored at approximately the national average in fourth and eighth-grade math and reading NAEP testing.

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Nationally Recognized School Funding Experts Pair with State Advocates to Advise Charter School Leaders

Afton Partners, a national organization specializing in school funding and education policy, has announced via social media a new partnership with the Tennessee State Collaborative for Reforming Education(SCORE) and  The Tennessee Charter School Center(TCSC). The stated purpose of the budding collaboration is to help Tennessee’s charter school leaders better understand the operational and financial implications of Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement(TISA) – the state’s new funding formula for public schools. 

TISA was passed by legislators during the last General Assembly and is slated to replace the current funding formula for the 2023-2024 school year. Touted as a formula that funds students over systems, the bill establishes a base funding rate of $6,860 per pupil, then distributes additional funding for students considered as being economically disadvantaged, having unique learning needs, or living in rural or impoverished communities. Tennessee charter schools are considered public schools and therefore receive funding through their charter authorizer at the same rate as traditional schools. 

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Black and Hispanic Catholic School Students Outperformed Those in Government Schools on Nation’s Report Card Assessments

Results of national education assessments released last week showed unprecedented drops in academic achievement in fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading scores, but black, Hispanic, and low-income Catholic school students outperformed their counterparts in national, charter, and public school averages.

Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the “Nation’s Report Card,” revealed a dramatic decline in test scores from 2019, when students were last tested.

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Former School Board Member and Bredesen Advisor Climbs Back in the Ring with New Advocacy Group

During his tenure on the MNPS School Board, former Bredesen advisor Will Pinkston worked with a laser-like focus to prevent the growth of charter schools in Tennessee. Though he is no longer a board member, he is leading a new effort to continue that fight by drawing attention to the financial cost charter schools impose on local school districts. Pinkston, a Democrat, has joined forces with former Wilson County Schools Director Donna Wright, a Republican, to create a new nonprofit, nonpartisan group advocating for traditional public schools.

The stated focus of the new group is to shed a light on the fiscal cost of charter schools on local districts’ budgets. Visitors to the fledging group’s website will find a series of research studies including one by Derek W. Black. Black is considered one of the nation’s leading experts in public education funding and is the Ernest F. Hollings Chair in Constitutional Law and director of the Constitutional Law Center at the University of South Carolina. He argues that charter schools have a negative impact on the budgets of local school districts due to fixed costs.

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Tennessee Public Charter School Commission Rejects Founders Classical Applications in Williamson and Sumner Counties

Despite massive turnout in support of two Founders Classical Academy charter schools, the Tennessee Public Charter School Commission (TPCSC) has rejected the schools’ bids to open campuses in Williamson and Sumner counties.

“I think it is clear that this school has a lot of community support,” Tess Stovall, TPCSC’s executive director reportedly said. “However, that is not the only thing that one needs for a school to be successful.”

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Tennessee Charter School Commission Executive Director Recommends Rejection of Two More Proposed Schools

The executive director of Tennessee’s Public Charter Schools Commission has recommended against two new charter schools, after last month battling to stop a charter school from opening in Rutherford County and another from opening in Williamson County. 

Tess Stovall reportedly agreed with the Memphis-Shelby County School Boards unanimous votes – one in April and another in July – and recommended against the opening of Binghampton Community School and Tennessee Volunteer Military Academy.

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Teachers with Rutherford County Schools Publicly Battle American Classical Academy Charter School

A number of school teachers in Rutherford County took advantage of a public comment form in order to speak out against what would be a competing charter school in the county. 

In the open public comments, 255 of 311 comments were in favor of Rutherford County Schools, meaning that about four in five of the commenters said they did not want the American Classical Academy, a Hillsdale College affiliated school, to open in the county. 

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Crom’s Crommentary: News Channel 5’s Phil Williams Is Far-Left Partisan Media Member

Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report, Live from Music Row, Friday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed the original all-star panelist Crom Carmichael to the studio for another edition of Crom’s Crommentary.

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Commentary: Tennessee School Boards and Unions Go Up Against Hillsdale-Affiliated Charter Schools

Hillsdale College's Monticello replica at the Blake Center donated by Prestley Blake in Somers, CT in on September 23, 2020.

Three Tennessee school boards denied the application of the American Classical Academy, a K-12 charter school system affiliated with Hillsdale College that provides students with a classic liberal arts education. The American Classical Academy alleges that these decisions are politically motivated and based on its ties to Hillsdale, which is Christian and conservative, as well as comments made by Hillsdale’s president, Larry Arnn.

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School Choice Advocates Remind Philadelphia Parents of Options as District Workers Prepare to Strike

As unionized public-school staffers protest the School District of Philadelphia’s failure to assent to the union’s salary and training terms, threatening to strike at the beginning of the school year, school-choice advocates are reminding parents of alternatives.

Bus drivers, custodians, maintenance staff and other workers represented by the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ have authorized a strike that could compromise the resumption of schooling that is scheduled for next Monday. Pro-strike workers insist they are underpaid, noting that cleaners make roughly $16,000 per year at the low end. At the high end, construction inspectors make approximately $70,000.

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Ohio, Michigan Charter Schools Sue Biden Administration

A group of Ohio and Michigan charter schools sued the Biden administration today, claiming a new rule that requires charter schools to prove public schools are over-enrolled is illegal.

The federal lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, includes the Michigan Charter School Association and the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a nonprofit charter school authorizer that supervises 13 charter schools in Ohio.

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Commentary: Rutherford County Needs Charter Schools

Whether you believe we do, or do not, the fact of the matter is that our Governor & legislature have made it clear that they do, and most parents have made it clear they want more “school choice” for their children.

My name is Tammy Sharp, and I am the Rutherford County Zone 1 school board member. I am completing my first 4-year term on the board, and am unopposed on the August 4th ballot. This zone I very proudly serve, represents a large part of Smyrna and Lavergne on the east side of interstate 24. Eleven of its 13 schools are Title 1 schools.

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Youngkin Rallies at 2021 Campaign Location to Sign Budget

HENRICO, Virginia — Governor Glenn Youngkin held a campaign-style rally to ceremonially sign Virginia’s Fiscal Year 2023-2024 budget. On Tuesday, Youngkin spoke from the aisles of the Tom Leonard’s grocery store where he filmed a grocery tax-related campaign ad and where he held one of his final rallies during the campaign.

“Nine months ago we were right here with many of you, and we in fact were talking about the impact that rising cost of groceries were have on families,” Youngkin said to a crowd of supporters, reporters, former GOP candidates, and current GOP politicians standing next to bins of produce.

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