Should a religious school get taxpayer funding?

Ascent Academy is forcing 9R to immediately review their application.

We need YOU to take action before Friday, May 27!

SIGN UP FOR PUBLIC FORUM TO REVIEW ASCENT APPLICATION

On May 31, the Board of Education will hold a public forum in the Durango High School auditorium beginning at 4:00 p.m. to hear comments regarding the charter school application from Ascent Classical Academy.  View the Application Here. Anyone who lives within the Durango School District 9-R boundaries and any employee of the Durango School District 9-R is invited to speak for two minutes.  If you would like to speak, please submit your name, e-mail and address at this link BEFORE 4 pm Friday May 27.  

If you do not want to speak at the Forum, but wish to submit comments about the Ascent Academy Charter School Application, Click Here

Please realize this is part of a nation-wide attempt to gut public schools in the US. It is also directly tied to the radical slate of candidates who ran last year for the 9R school board. 

​Background Info:

  • Ascent will not have to adhere to Colorado's strict teacher licensing standards.

  • The poor performance of Ascent across Colorado is well documented - Ranked 656 in elementary schools, 317 in high schools. Further, only 2% of students at other Colorado Academies are economically disadvantaged.

  • Ascent's application hides behind the veil of a "classical education" to skirt teaching the full spectrum of American and world experience.

  • Hillsdale College (remember Betsy Devos?) has designed the curriculum used by Ascent. Hillsdale is patently, and conservatively faith-based. Any site that begins with "Faith and Freedom" is not secular. Dig in a bit further and see what we mean

    • "In an era of book bans, crusades against teaching about racism, and ever-widening proposals to punish teachers and librarians, Hillsdale is not just a central player, but a ready-made solution for conservatives who seek to reclaim an educational system they believe was ceded decades ago to liberal interests. The college has become a leading force in promoting a conservative and overtly Christian reading of American history and the U.S. Constitution. It opposes progressive education reforms in general and contemporary scholarship on inequality in particular. It has featured lectures describing the Jan. 6 insurrection as a hoax and Vladimir Putin as a "hero to populist conservatives around the world." 

  • Take a moment, okay more, to read through their application packet. You'll see they greatly value Latin, but not computers. The "Primary sources" they cite are distinctly Euro-centric. 

    • They seek numerous waivers from "usual" school policies (pp153 - 167):

      • To not report Teacher Evaluation Ratings 

      • To not comply with 9R school calendars

      • To not comply with teacher-pupil hours, as set by the local board

      • To not comply with regulations requiring teachers' certificates, etc

      • To negotiate its own teaching contracts

      • To accept exterior donations and grants with out 9R approval

      • To not comply with "Fiscal Management Policies set forth by 9R

      • Waiver of all district policies involving school closings and cancellations, security and access to buildings, instructions programs, school calendar / instructional time, curriculum review and development, health education, teaching about drugs, alcohol and tobacco, family life / sex education, preparation for post secondary education, to choose its own textbooks, etc.

      • Waiver of all district policies regarding students, including  bullying prevention and education, intra-district choice / open enrollment, discipline of students with disabilities, communications regarding communicable / infectious diseases, administering medications to students, student use of internet and electronic communications, etc.

Talking points: 

you only have 2 minutes, choose a topic!

 

  • Do we need another charter school in Durango when we have Juniper, Mountain Middle, and Animas High? As good as some charters may be, they drain needed money from our current schools in a state where we rank in the bottom quarter of states in educational funding. Supporters say students should have options, but there are many options already available, including both charters and private religious schools. 

 

  • Ascent’s performance record in its existing Colorado charters is questionable. In 2021, U.S. News reported that only 32% of Ascent’s Douglas County students scored at or above the proficiency level in math, and only 57% in reading. Ascent’s scores were inferior to Douglas County's public schools in both subjects. 

  • Ascent's network of schools follows the Barney Charter School curriculum, created by Hillsdale College, a small Christian college in Michigan, whose “inseparable purpose” is teaching “character, faith and freedom” and “the moral tenets of Christianity as commonly understood in the Christian tradition.”  While this purpose may sound beneficial, and would be expected in a private religious school, it is inappropriate for a public school financed by taxpayer dollars serving students of diverse cultures and religions. 

 

  • If you look closely, Ascent appears to be a religious school cloaking its true nature in benevolent language to gain public funding. I fear that Ascent would not provide the kind of comprehensive education needed for our Durango students to succeed in tomorrow’s world. 

 

  • Ascent’s curriculum and the waivers it is requesting are troubling.   It does not want to follow the same rules or teach the same curriculum as our other district schools. We need our students to develop common understandings of good citizenship in a diverse society and a full appreciation of our country’s history, scientific realizations, and multi-cultural, multi-faith populace.

 

  • In addition to fifteen automatic waivers from state and local school district policies, one of which exempts charters from teacher licensing standards (meaning that its teachers need not be qualified to teach in our public schools), Ascent’s application lists 14 pages of additional requested exemptions.

  • The board should review Ascent's application carefully, looking at its performance data, curriculum, enrollment policies, and plans for serving students with special needs.