Heritage Takes a Second Stab at Massachusetts
National Heritage Academies (NHA), a controversial chain of charter schools that has been sued for teaching creationism and promoting prayer on campus, thought it was all set to open its first public school in Massachusetts two years ago. However, contract talks ultimately collapsed between NHA and the Northern Bristol County Regional Charter School’s board. Now, the Michigan-based operator of 51 schools in five states is trying again — twice. Of the five proposed charter schools facing hearings this month, two would be operated by NHA. In March, the state Board of Education will vote on whether to grant final approval for Worcester Regional Charter School and Hampden Regional Charter School.
NHA is the brainchild of Republican fundraiser and self-described evangelical J.C. Huizenga (cousin of billionaire H. Wayne Huizenga). Asked by the Wall Street Journal whether he would hire a homosexual to teach, Huizenga said, "Personally, I don’t believe a gay teacher is an appropriate teacher for a child." Critics who regard NHA as an instrument of religious indoctrination claim that nearly half of its schools’ teachers come from Bible colleges.
Whatever its spiritual trappings, NHA has been criticized for targeting "high-profit" students: younger pupils from middle-class families. Huizenga, who has donated roughly $350,000 to various Republican candidates and committees, could also be accused of trying to buy his way into the state. In the past two years he has taken a financial interest in Bay State Republicans. He gave $5000 to the Republican State Committee, $1500 to Governor Mitt Romney, and $500 each to Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, state-representative candidate Todd Smola, and state-senatorial candidates John Thibault, Jim Coffey, and Robi Blute.
David S. Bernstein