Ruth Coniff: How a Wisconsin tribe helped launch a Trump-approved ‘Make America Great Again’ charter school
Ruth Coniff wrote this piece for the Wisconsin Examiner. It’s a good look at what happens when authorizing charter schools becomes an income-generating business instead of an act of educational stewardship.
The Lake Country Classical Academy, an independent charter school authorized by the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College in northern Wisconsin, opened in September in the Milwaukee suburb of Oconomowoc, about a five-hour drive south on Interstate 94 from Hayward, where the college is located — about as far away from Ojibwe land and tribal members as you can get without leaving Wisconsin.
The academy advertises itself as a back-to-basics school that emphasizes Latin and phonics and takes a top-down, “teacher-led” approach to education, instilling “virtues of character” in its students. It is the first of its kind in Wisconsin, part of a nationwide network of charter schools that receive curriculum, teacher training, and mentoring from Hillsdale College, a small Christian college in Michigan with deep ties to the Trump administration. The “1776 curriculum” devised by Hillsdale and used by the Lake Country Classical Academy is “the latest push to continue former President Donald Trump’s mission to create a ‘patriotic education,’” according to a July 2021 article in Politico. Larry Arnn, Hillsdale’s president, led the Trump administration’s 1776 Commission, created to promote a positive vision of America, in what Politico calls “a direct challenge to The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project, which explored how racism and inequality shaped the founding of the country.”
Wisconsin public school advocates see the new charter school as a backdoor way to divert tax dollars from public schools and into quasi-private academies. Republican legislators have featured the school at hearings as they push for an expansion of tribal colleges’ ability to grant charters. Heather DuBois Bourenane, director of the Wisconsin Public Education Network, particularly objects to what she sees as policymakers “politicking with some of the state’s most vulnerable kids in order to advance a political project or agenda.”
Others see something peculiar about the tribe’s sponsorship of a school curriculum that appears to whitewash history.
Read the full story here.