Governor Bill Lee has made his education views clear: He is a supporter of vouchers and charter schools. His voucher legislation has been held up in the courts on appeal, and voucher opponents are fearful that the highest court will support vouchers, which has become dear to the heart of Republicans everywhere.

In Governor Lee’s budget message, he proclaimed his intention to expand charter schools in the state. He also promised to let parents know which books their children are exposed to, in the classrooms and in school libraries.

The Nashville Tennessean reported that Lee has already planned a partnership with the far-right fundamentalist Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan, to open charter schools across the state. Lee originally asked Hillsdale to start 100 charters but apparently the College felt it could handle only 50. Hillsdale is one of the few colleges that has never accepted any form of federal aid, not even scholarships, to protect its independence and religious teachings.

Hillsdale has established 21 charter schools across the nation to spread its ultra-conservative political and religious values and views.

The college was founded by Baptists and has preserved its Christian identity, which it has infused with intellectual, cultural and political conservatism, said Adam Laats, a history professor at Binghamton University and an expert on institutions like Hillsdale. 

The college has positioned itself as “a sort of libertarian or ‘fusionist,’ is what the nerds call it, type of conservative alignment,” said Laats, author of “Fundamentalist U: Keeping the American Faith in Higher Education..” 

In addition to the charter schools it helps establish, Hillsdale has produced, “The Hillsdale 1776 Curriculum,” that includes lesson plans for teachers...

Partnerships between states and colleges and universities for K-12 education initiatives is common, Laats said. But he said there seems to be unique elements with the prospective Tennessee-Hillsdale partnership.

“What strikes me as the unusual takeaway is that the governor is intentionally wheeling the state into this very ideologically loaded and electorally loaded civics education,” Laats said. 

The college promotes conservative Christian values and has close ties with former President Donald Trump’s administration. Some Hillsdale alumni served in the Trump administration.

The school is popularly known for rejecting federal government financial aid, meaning it is not subject to some federal regulations that many colleges and universities are.

Hillsdale has a statue of Ronald Reagan on its Michigan campus, and Governor Lee quoted Reagan, talking about teaching the basics and “true” American history.

Ronald Reagan is a graduate of public schools in Illinois.

Perhaps the new Hillsdale charters could be referred to as the MAGA chain.

We know how poorly the all-charter Achievement School District performed in Tennessee. Why would Governor Lee expect different results? The rumor is that he plans to plant the Hillsdale charters in rural communities, which is odd since rural communities typically have one schoolhouse that is a much-loved part of the community.