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AP file photo / Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee delivers his State of the State address in the House Chamber of the Capitol building on Jan. 31 in Nashville. In the speech, he extolled the Hillsdale charters plan.

You must know something is wrong in Tennessee when Republicans can't find Republicans who are Republican enough for them. Even Republican teachers.

Gov. Bill Lee made conservative hearts pitter-patter all over the place in his late January State of the State address by pledging to add $1 billion to the state's nearly $6 billion education budget and spend half of it on "Christian identity infused charter schools to teach "informed patriotism."

But now after a reception in which the Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn goes on for two hours mocking the intelligence of public school teachers and Lee offering only praise for Arnn and never defending Tennessee teachers or our colleges' teacher training programs, Lee has suddenly become a bad guy in his own majority red state.

Lee just sat there while Arnn prattled insult after insult onto our teachers, such as saying they are being "trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country."

As a once famous football announcer used to say: "Get the picture now."

Well, this picture was captured by hidden camera video at the closed-door reception with Lee and Arnn and obtained by Nashville's NewsChannel 5. The television station has since run several snippets of the video and shown it to Nashville leaders, including long-time conservative J.C. Bowman. Bowman, who as executive director and CEO of the Professional Educators of Tennessee and lobbies Capitol Hill for Tennessee teachers, is outraged.

"The problem is not so much that Larry Arnn would say this. He's got an agenda. But what really is the problem here is that our governor stood there and let this be said about the people that are educating," Bowman said.

But teacher insults were not and are not the whole problem.

Arnn sparked controversy nearly a decade ago with a sarcastic reference to minorities as "dark ones," according to NewsChannel 5. During the reception with Lee, he reportedly visited the issue of "diversity" in schools.

"And the administrators you hire are all diversity people — and that helps you, by the way, with your federal requirements that you have a certain number by color," Arnn continued. "Now, because they are appointing all these diversity officers, what are their degrees in? Education. It's easy. You don't have to know anything."

NewsChannel 5 posited to Bowman: "Essentially, he's saying diversity candidates are not smart enough to get real degrees."

"Yes, that's exactly what he said," Bowman agreed.

Tennessee Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and a former public school teacher concurred, NewsChannel 5 wrote, quoting her: "It's unbelievable to me that someone this backward and this ignorant is being listened to in this state and that our governor sat on a stage with him and said nothing but nodded agreement."

Just to put a fine point on it, what could get more over-the-top conservative than Christian charter schools teaching "informed patriotism" with a slam at equity?

Still, now everybody's mad at Lee.

We get it. We're mad, too. But we're Democrats! Of course we're mad at Lee for for even talking to this bumblehead — let alone for inviting him to put 50 of his charter schools across our state. (Lee drew laughter during the reception by saying he still wanted 100 Hillsdale charters but Arnn is planning only 50.) But not only has Lee invited Arnn to put charter schools here, he's even dedicating our money — our money — to it.

NewsChannel 5 did another big reveal about the Hillsdale charter schools curriculum in February. What it found was the program favored by Lee rewrites civil rights history and claims Martin Luther King Jr. did not favor "force of law."

Speaking of rewriting history, the Hillsdale charter schools aim to export K-12 civics lessons called "the Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum." That curriculum was designed to depart from the New York Times' 1619 project and to counter critical race theory, Hillsdale officials told Newsweek last August.

In Unit 8, "Late 20th Century Government and Politics, in lessons on the Civil Rights Movement," the course reads: "The civil rights movement was almost immediately turned to programs that ran counter to the lofty ideals of the Founders," according to the Nashville television station.

To put the finest point possible on all this, Republicans (and Democrats) being mad at Gov. Lee for letting the Hillsdale blowhard insult teachers is the least of the problems that might be unleashed in our state with this charter school plan.

Our teachers need to speak up immediately — and not just on their personal angst about Arnn's (and Lee's) teaching insults.

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