The teachers union opposes charter schools and school choice, preferring the old one-size-fits-all attendance center model.

So it’s no big surprise the union balks when parents propose charter schools dedicated to restoring classical curriculums focused on traditional Western culture, literature, and the basic disciplines of reading, writing and math.

Throw in a charter school’s association with Hillsdale College, a conservative and classical learning environment, and the union comes unglued.

That’s what happened in Boulder, when a group of parents tried to form the K-12 Ascent Classical Academy Flatirons school.

“ACA’s close ties to Hillsdale College, a religious institution, indicates that the separation between church and state would be non-existent at ACA,” states a letter to the Boulder Valley School District opposing Ascent Classical.

Beyond hyperbolic, that statement is a bold-faced lie.

The Barney Charter School Initiative at the prestigious Hillsdale College in Michigan supports the initiations of tuition-free, public classical charter schools throughout much of the country. It provides consulting, training and curriculums and other resources for parents, teachers and administrators trying to start classical schools. It has done so for 20 schools in nine states, with local administrators and boards governing each school.

The public schools do not proselytize religion. If they tried to, the law would stop them.

The union bases its false alarm about a breach of “separation” on Hillsdale’s claim of teaching college students a liberal arts curriculum grounded in Greco-Roman culture and the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Nearly all top universities have deep-rooted ties to religion. Georgetown, Regis, Boston College, San Francisco, Loyola, Santa Clara, and Gonzaga are just a small sampling of colleges and universities founded and operated by Jesuit Catholic priests. Puritans founded Harvard and Yale to train clergy.

If the religion-based argument wasn’t stupid enough, the teachers union tried this one:

“ACA’s CEO has derided public schools as ‘government schools,’ ” the letter claims.

They are government schools. Just as the proposed Ascent Academy would be a government school. Schools funded with tax dollars are “government schools,” and there is nothing derisive about acknowledging this fact.

The union complained about the academy’s leader criticizing Colorado’s Public Employees Retirement Association. Given PERA’S unfunded liabilities of $51 billion and growing, much of it owed to public school teachers, one might expect the teachers union to likewise fret about the pension.

The union’s complaints about Ascent Classical would be amusing if they did not not have such irrational sway over the people entrusted to decide the school’s fate.

Boulder Valley School District Superintendent Rob Anderson, after reviewing the application for Ascent, recommended the school board conditionally approve it. Later, he mysteriously changed his tune and advised against it. The school board followed his advice, which had to be influenced by the union that controls the superintendent’s professional workforce.

Thursday, the Colorado State Board of Education voted 3-3, with one abstention, on an appeal. The tie vote means the local district’s rejection stands.

The Boulder Daily Camera applauded the local school board’s rejection, in part because it considers the name “ascent” suspiciously religious.

“The name Ascent is an apparent allusion to Jesus’ ascension,” the editorial explains.

“The editorial board’s claim that the name ‘Ascent’ is ‘an apparent allusion to Jesus’ ascension’ is a silly leap of logic. Is it not obvious, in a state famous for its mountain peaks, that it refers to the climbing that the student must do to become excellent in character and intellect?” explains Hillsdale President Larry Arnn in a refutation published by the Camera.

Hillsdale and other advocates of classical K-12 education have established an Ascent Academy in Douglas County and Jefferson County. They hope to initiate at least eight others throughout Colorado to emphasize art, music, literature, math, science, history and Latin.

Graduates of classical academies leave high school knowing more than a lot of today’s college graduates, many of whom cannot name a branch of federal government or a freedom protected by the First Amendment.

Colorado families need the option of classical K-12 education more than ever, as the culture loses sight of the laws, traditions and principles that make this country the envy of the world. Don’t let the teachers union obstruct the next attempt to establish an educational option that would benefit our state.

The Gazette editorial board


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