Parents in Athens County, Ohio, are concerned that a planned new charter school will drain funding away from their local public schools. The proposed classical academy is relying on conservative Christian Hillsdale College to deliver its curriculum and set it up but insists it is not a Hillsdale charter, despite appearances.

A planned charter school with ties to evangelical Christian and politically conservative organizations could, if successful, divert approximately $2 million a year from area school districts starting in 2024.

Southeast Ohio Classical Academy, to be based in Athens County, has stirred controversy among local parents and educators who are concerned in part about the school’s:

  • Association with a private Christian college known for its political activism.
  • Ties to a “planted” evangelical church in Athens.
  • Curriculum based on “our Western civilization inheritance.”
  • Potential to siphon state funding away from public schools.

Those concerns have been aired on social media, including a spirited discussion in the Women of Athens Facebook group last month and the creation of an Athens Parents against SOCA Twitter page. Local law enforcement investigated one Facebook comment for “indirect threats” to SOCA board members, although the case was closed without charges.

The school’s founders say that SOCA has no religious affiliation, that its curriculum offers a “well-rounded education,” and that “school choice is a part of freedom.”

Public charter school, private Christian backing

Board member Kim Vandlen said she has long hoped to open a classical school, inspired by her own education at Hillsdale Academy in Michigan. The private, Christian K-12 school is operated by Hillsdale College, a private Christian college with longstanding ties to libertarian and conservative politics.