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Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Governor Bill Lee, shown here in a local campaign fundraiser this week, has refused to repudiate the insults to teachers from a Hillsdale (Michigan) College President Larry Arnn, with whom Lee has partnered to established 50 new charter schools in Tennessee.

It's great to see the results of people getting feisty when they don't like what politicians and civic leaders are doing. Take for example the aftermath of a recent reveal of teacher insults from Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn — and the silence from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

It turns out the public and teachers were not willing to ignore Arnn's and Lee's disrespect to Tennessee educators (and by extension to students and parents.)

At a two-hour June reception in Franklin, Tennessee, a hidden-camera video recorded Arnn, with Lee sitting beside him, repeatedly insulting the state's teachers and their teacher training. Arnn said our teachers are "trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges," and he mocked school diversity and inclusion efforts. Lee made no moves to refute the comments or defend our teachers, their training or education policy.

So when Nashville television station NewsChannel 5 began airing snippets of the conversation and showing it to lawmakers and a long-time Republican education lobbyist, Tennessee teachers began doing what teachers do best: Make a lesson. In comments and statements, they called out the insults and the governor's silence. One local charter school, Skillern Elementary in Soddy-Daisy, has now terminated its curriculum and other contracts with Hillsdale.

Hillsdale's "Christian-identity" infused charter schools and "informed patriotism" curriculum have been embraced by Lee. The governor announced at the first of the year that at least $32 million of our taxpayer money will be spent for a charter facilities plan. The state also was formalizing a partnership with the Michigan-based Hillsdale, he said, to expand Hillsdale's approach to civics education and all K-12 education in Tennessee.

But Tennessee teachers are not bringing apples to Lee and Arnn. The teachers instead are sending the message that it's not OK to insult them — or sit by quietly while others behave boorishly.

NewsChannel 5 noted that Lee "never disputed those comments," and instead offered "only praise for Arnn's 'vision.'" And on Wednesday in Nashville, Lee refused to repudiate the remarks of his conservative ally.

Lee told reporters, "We believe in our teachers. I'll put 'em up against any teachers in the country, the best and brightest, and we have taken actions to be supportive of them."

But Lee also said it's his belief Arnn's comments were aimed at "activism on the left," and Lee said he agreed with Arnn on that point.

"I do believe that the comments that you referenced was a conversation about the influence of left-leaning activists in the public education system in this state and this country, frankly," Lee said. "It really was a national conversation. It wasn't about Tennessee teachers or Tennessee schools as much as it was about activism in education in this country."

Sure, Gov. Try shifting blame to the left. But the left doesn't insult teachers or call for white-washing American history.

Let's be clear. Hillsdale's so-called "pro-American" 1776 Curriculum grew out of the college's religious affiliation and its ties to the former President Donald Trump. To counter The New York Times' 1619 Project, which examines the legacy of slavery since it came to America that year and highlights contributions of Black Americans to American society, Trump commissioned a 1776 Report. Arnn led Trump's short-lived 1776 Commission and wrote that report.

On Thursday, Hamilton County's Skillern Elementary charter school, set to open this fall, announced that it had terminated its agreement with Hillsdale College that would have allowed it to use the college's K-5 curriculum.

"In order to use our time tending to the mission of the school rather than defending ourselves from attempts to mischaracterize our efforts, we have terminated the agreement with Hillsdale that would have allowed us to use a program guide as a planning aid for our teachers," Skillern CEO Angie Markum said in a news release.

As for commenting on what exactly was said by Arnn or Lee, Markum's news release stated: "We do not wish to participate in media frenzies, because the job of educating students is too important for us to give attention to anything else. We support our teachers and recognize that excellent teachers are ultimately the reason that any school succeeds."

Lee should drop the Hillsdale propaganda. And teachers should keep up the pressure.

A Chattanooga Times Free Press reader poll Thursday found traction on the question of Lee dropping his Hillsdale plans, asking straight up: "Should Gov. Bill Lee drop his plan for 50 charter schools in Tennessee affiliated with Hillsdale College?"

The poll drew 626 responses — 93% of which offered a resounding "yes."

But we'll be shocked if Lee changes his mind. Like his fave man, Trump, Lee seems incapable of admitting a mistake.

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