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Christian College Building Nationwide Network of K-12 Public Charter Schools That's 'Classical and American'

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A small Christian college located in Michigan is quietly building a network of charter and affiliated schools across the country. 

Founded in 1844 and headquartered in Hillsdale, Michigan, Hillsdale College is offering what it calls its "1776 Curriculum" for grades kindergarten through 12 for free. 

According to the college's website, the curriculum provides "an education that is both classical and American in its orientation; one that is rooted in the liberal arts and sciences offers a firm grounding in civic virtue, and cultivates moral character."

Currently, the college has 21 charter-member schools located in 10 states. In addition, the college's network also has 33 affiliated schools using its curriculum in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming. There's even an affiliate in the country of Ecuador.

The charter schools are publicly funded within each school district they serve, and are independently operated. The Hillsdale website reports there are currently more than 14,000 students enrolled in its affiliated schools with more than 8,000 students on waiting lists. 

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The New York Times reports Hillsdale has ambitious plans to add to its network of classical public charter schools, which focus on "the centrality of the Western tradition." 

Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee recently invited the college to start 50 schools using public funds, including $32 million set aside for charter facilities, according to the newspaper. 

"For decades, Hillsdale College has been the standard-bearer in quality curriculum and in the responsibility of preserving American liberty," Mr. Lee told lawmakers recently. "I believe their efforts are a good fit for Tennessee."

Hillsdale accepts no state or federal funding, including grants or loans, according to The Times. Instead, it relies on local funds and fundraising campaigns. Hillsdale does not own or manage any of the charter schools. The schools sign an agreement with the college to use their curriculum, which also provides free training for teachers and staff. 

Hillsdale's curriculum is reportedly based on President Donald Trump's 1776 Commission that was created to promote patriotic education. Hillsdale President Dr. Larry P. Arnn chaired the commission. 

As CBN News has reported, the 1776 Commission was founded in response to The NY Times' controversial "1619 Project" that says America's founding, economy, and government are all based on slavery and white supremacy, and that America didn't begin when it was officially founded in 1776, or even in 1607 when the first settlers arrived, but in 1619 when the first African slaves arrived in Virginia.  

The Times has tried to brush aside claims by several historians that the 1619 Project has major factual errors, basically saying that American history is open to interpretation. But after a barrage of criticism for its historical inaccuracy, references to 1619 as America's true founding have been quietly removed from the 1619 website. 

Critics have predictably questioned Hillsdale's curriculum, especially its reportedly negative views on Affirmative Action, the New Deal, and the Great Society. Others have questioned the science curriculum and its stance on climate change and global warming. 

But some parents are applauding Hillsdale's schools, their class size, and how easy it is to communicate with teachers. One example is Atlanta Classical Academy in Georgia. 

Martina Svoboda, whose two children attend the school, told The Times she applied eight years ago spurred by overcrowded schools in Atlanta and problems communicating with her son's teacher. "We were frustrated through the year," she said.

Atlanta Classical has "smaller classrooms, friendly teachers, and direct communication," Svoboda explained.

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of