ABUSE & VIOLENCE IN THE CHURCH, Classical Conversations, No-Talk Rule, Personal Stories

Classical Conversations #8: Personal Story and Financial Nightmare

NOTE: This is part of a series that began with these earlier posts:

Note from Julie Anne:  I received an email from Evan who came across my previous articles on Classical Conversations. He shared the difficulties he has had with Classical Conversations and gave me permission to post it here. I’m no legal expert, but it certainly seems like there could be legal issues here.

Side note: I’ve been hearing rumblings of a rate increase for families in Classical Conversations in the past couple of weeks on social media. Evan confirmed to me that he received an e-mail from CC saying they (CC) are raising the price of the money that goes to Corporate (apparently, this is different from tuition money). This rate increase was also mentioned on the Classical Conversations Facebook page. It was ridiculous watching the higher ups trying to squelch the conversation. They grilled the person who posted the information, wanting to know where it came from, and saying that they shouldn’t have posted it, that a leader should have, etc.

Those who have read this blog know what I feel about people trying to squelch communication. It’s not healthy at all. Whenever you sense someone trying to silence you, be on guard. This is the behavior cult leaders and their minions use. ~ja

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Evan Shares His Family’s Experience with Classical Conversations

I found your website while searching about CC. We are a family in CC currently and are dealing with a nightmare. My wife is a tutor and this is our first year. Everything looked great until the school year began. The director who was over all 5 of the tutors took all of the tuition (somewhere between $12,000 and $17,000), and never showed up for community group. She spent the money and ran.

This left the tutors to work with no pay (even after paying tuition for their own kids). They were forced with the choice to pull out and let the community crumble, or to continue to work for no pay. They all were gracious to work without pay. 

Corporate CC has been asked to step in, and their response has been awful. We learned today that this situation has happened 10 times over the last 20 years. They basically said that we should consider ourselves blessed that they “forgave” the $85 payment that was supposed to come to corporate. We paid the $85 per kid to the director but it was never passed on to corporate. They also said that we shouldn’t really be upset because everyone is still getting what they signed up for (tutors and community). The only people out anything are the tutors (including my wife).

They informed us that because of their business structure, they are separate from the director and they are not liable for this issue. They do not intend to step in and help. They also said that the only times they step in to help is if there is a natural disaster that affects the group. Apparently we would be better off if a tornado came through and destroyed all our supplies.

I hope this can be a cautionary tale for those interested. Beware of CC. They have no interest in anything but their bottom line. 

47 thoughts on “Classical Conversations #8: Personal Story and Financial Nightmare”

  1. Wow, that’s so generous of them to “let” you run your community without repaying the stolen fees. Now that you’ve had a year to work for each other, you should consider just keeping on with what you’re doing now. Drop CC entirely, keep the community, everyone work for free for each other and let CC keep their regulations and power tripping to themselves. You will be better off in the long run. Sorry you had to go through this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Evan, I’m so sorry. To my mind this was most definitely a scam and the director and CC should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They have a hotline to file a complaint. You give them your name and such but I was told they don’t use it except to get in touch if they have questions. The FTC prosecutes cases that they find compelling at the federal level. The number for that complaint hotline is 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). You may need to have CC’s contact info on hand:
    Customer Service
    Accounting and HR
    The FTC officer may also ask you for the name of the
    Chief Executive Officer (CEO): Robert Bortins
    and the
    Chief Financisl Officer (CFO): John Collins
    and the
    Chief Operations Officer (COO): Keith Denton

    You can also file a complaint with your state Attorney General. Google your state, “attorney general” and “complaint”.

    Please follow though on this anyone who has had an experience like this. The man I registered a complaint with at the FTC said that the way things get done is to rally fellow victims to report and complain.


  3. If they don’t do basic background checks on people who handle money, what would they do if someone turned out to be a pedophile?


  4. To Evan and all families who are going through this terrible situation. I am so very sorry. Please take Sara’s advice and file your complaint with the FTC and your Attorney General. They are there to listen. I am also dealing with some major financial “fallout” as a result of being involved with cc.
    It was only a matter of time. A financial background check is not part of the protocol when contracting a Director who handles ALL the community monies with no accountability. And more stories like this are sure to surface with all the money talk that is going on about the increase in registration / supply fees / tuition and the Independent Contractor debacle in California. CC corporate is so disconnected from their Directors with all the levels of “management” in-between the corporate office and the actual Director Licensees. I hope every AR and SR reading this who hires these Directors and signs their contracts has checked into liability insurance in case some angry disgruntled parent decides to take legal action. It looks like cc has set their business up and protected themselves quite well with an army of homeschool moms who will defend them to the bitter end.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is why you need to KNOW WHO YOU HIRE!! If they would stop pushing enrollment by encouraging ANYONE to tutor or direct maybe they wouldn’t have this problem!


  6. Wow. Just because CC has set themselves up to isolate themselves from liability in these situations does not mean that they SHOULD not do something. Our moral code should be bigger than a legal one.

    If a licensee of mine did something like that, I would be horrified and bending over backwards to make it right and help recover those funds. Very sad testimony. I guess they just wash their hands of it and do not care.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The IRS criminal enforcement division needs to be advised as to the operation of the organization. These ” independent contractors ” would be ruled employees upon review. You can’t maintain strict control over independent contractors. You can’t treat them like employees on a day to day operational level and then turn around and call them contractors for tax purposes.


  8. Wow! This is a first for me, and I’ve had a lot of horror stories. I agree with the people above. I believe the business model is the root issue here.

    If your community had been a franchise and you tutors were hired as employees, the director could have tried to run off but there would be multiple legal checks and balances in place to hold her, and possibly CC as a joint employer, accountable. But CC doesn’t franchise, at least not on paper. I believe they do franchise “in fact” through tight control. Fortunately the FTC is interested in businesses that call themselves mere lcensors but are, in fact, setting themselves up as franchisors. That would be my complaint to the FTC if I were you. That you believe the people in your group were defrauded of thousands in tuition money. And then what you believe was, in fact, a franchisee got away with it because the parent company wouldn’t admit they run franchises. A company like CC being found to be running franchises illegally would be a big deal and would force things to change.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Might be worth also contacting the IRS to report that individual. I don’t know how he/she would have reported that income on tax forms, but it would probably trigger an audit, especially if it was just stolen.


  10. Remember the “broken system”. When an organization stops being about accomplishing its original purpose, and starts existing solely to support the power (and money) of those on the top, there is no way that those on the top are ever going to voluntarily change anything. By all means bring the FTC down on them. But also, stop supporting this organization with your energy and your money. Because the real power the membership has is in the power to leave if they’re not happy.


  11. So one of the reasons people pay the high prices for CC, versus seeking out a co-op or Schole group or Claritas group is the feeling of security that the corporation in North Carolina is watching out for them, keeping the groups consistent … except when the going gets tough they wash their hands of involvement.

    Seek freedoom homeschool parents. You don’t need CC to control your studies. You don’t need to pay CC to “allow” you to have community. You don’t need CC to choose a bunch of books they didn’t write for the challenge levels, led by one overwhelmed mama who is not given any further materials than those third party books.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. BTW – what is CC doing to make this right? Have they given all those tutoring without pay free access to the director portal and CCC, so at least they can have corrections and tips?


  13. CC is doing nothing to make this right. They are offering nothing in return. In fact, although the rep for CC is supposed to be paid by the $85 we pay to corporate (though the director) and they never received it from the director, the rep is still being paid by CC.


  14. The director who was over all 5 of the tutors took all of the tuition (somewhere between $12,000 and $17,000), and never showed up for community group. She spent the money and ran.

    This is fraud, right? Why are they not going after the director??? And if it’s happened 10-20 times before, why do they not set up better controls?

    What a mess.


  15. I have all kinds of thoughts about home schooling (I’m a school teacher of almost 40 years), but if you feel you need something like CC, you can always join groups that are sponsored by local Christian schools and churches.

    I personally believe that if you really feel you need a group like CC to monitor your progress and curriculum, you are better off putting your children back in school. There is also nothing “magic” about learning Latin-it’s a great tool, but not the only one to produce a well-educated child.


  16. I was a F/E Director for five years (I quit after some drama with corporate). I had heard rumors of simlar situations happening, but to read an actual account of it is so very sad. I had always assumed that corporate would help out families in these situations but it does not surprise me that they do not. I am so very sorry this happened to you all.


  17. So by paying off the SR they are hoping no one sues and puts this all into the public record of a court case?

    What about the hosting church? Are they being paid their rent?


  18. I don’t doubt this. After all the stories I have heard and my own experiences, I know cc is a low-quality high-control business.

    I agree that their condescending, “You should be thankful,” is the standard way of control. They try to throw a spiritual spin on it, expecting others to overlook behavior to the degree of even legal issues. But if you so much as ask a good question to which they have a poor answer, they red flag you as someone to get rid of.

    And keep in mind, if they want a leader to remain in leadership, they will say, “This person was appointed by God.” (No joke. I am not making that up). But if they decide to get rid of someone, somehow that never comes up. So was this fraudulent director appointed by God so all these poor tutors and families need to accept this from the hand of God and forgive and be thankful? Or is that not the case? Perhaps cc is actively seeking after her legally to gain their money back but not letting the community know it? They talk out two sides of their mouth regularly – it’s whatever benefits them.

    I’m so sorry. Part of me is grateful that if cc isn’t going to change, that their ways are being exposed. But I wish they would take an honest look at the effect of their business practices, how much spiritual abuse occurs, how much they claim to be for truth and goodness and beauty and yet effect the opposite on their customers, how they claim to teach logical and objective thought and don’t allow it to be used on their own program.


  19. If they have a 501c3 religious exemption status, good luck, they are exempt from the usual scrutiny secular non-profits must abide by.


  20. It strikes me that you might talk with the local police, and possibly also with a local lawyer, to go through options. Somehow running off with that much money ought to constitute theft or embezzlement that I’d think would be of more interest to local or state authorities than federal. In addition, a good local lawyer will help guide the process so the DA/prosecutor is more likely to take the case.

    For that matter, I’d encourage CC to do the same, as any good lawyer would tell them that playing fast and loose with franchising, as the story suggests is happening, is a great way to get to know lawyers on a non-personal and adversarial basis. If you don’t have institutional controls to prevent this and deal with it when it happens, you’re out of control, and that makes tort lawyers salivate. (j/k, just a word picture)


  21. We have spoken with the HWY patrol (they have a larger jurisdiction since it’s multiple counties). They are pursuing it. I have also learned that CC has had a case brought to the attorney general in Mo but got it dropped somehow. It had to do with the independent contractor vs employee mess.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Evan, another thought; if everybody that was going to teach is of the same mind, get together, perhaps discuss with a lawyer, and simply send a note to HQ saying “if we don’t get better controls, we are done with CC, and will encourage others to be so as well.”

    (I say “talk to a lawyer” because sometimes there are nuances that need to be honored, and they’re paid to know that. Plus, they can be intimidating. And no, I’m not a lawyer if you’re curious, or even related closely to any.. Just like what many of them do)

    Just thinking more about the matter, there are any number of companies who do a franchise model like CC–really most of your chain restaurants–and part of what the franchise fees are paying for is precisely things like this; guys that go after bad actors, do the screens, make sure the organization as a whole looks good. Franchisers who don’t do this generally get called “bankrupt”.


  23. “The IRS criminal enforcement division needs to be advised as to the operation of the organization. These ” independent contractors ” would be ruled employees upon review. You can’t maintain strict control over independent contractors. You can’t treat them like employees on a day to day operational level and then turn around and call them contractors for tax purposes.”

    I teach this for a living for a state university. Liability, the law. I also teach professional continuing ed seminars on taxation and IRS issues for the American Institute of CPAs. What you’re saying here is exactly correct. Organizations cannot have it both ways, and the IRS looks past whatever you call things and tends to look to the substance of the relationship. The test for establishing a principal-agent relationship is complex, but the main factor, the biggie, is control, whether using the IRS test or the common law test.

    If CC (which I have some peripheral contact with, and it has not left a good impression at all) is exercising a level of high control over how local leaders perform their jobs, then that’s a principal-agent relationship and not an independent contractor one. If it looks like a duck… They should be sued under negligent hiring or retention theory, and there are likely other legal avenues as well. There might be grounds for a class action, depending on whteher this is a pervasive problem.

    People need to stand up to them.


  24. 10 other times??? I would like to find info about those as well! How has this happened 10 times and people not know about it? Was it all just swept under the rug? We have been a long time CC family, but I never really drank the kool-aid.


  25. Sounds like a bad, unscrupulous licensee.
    From what I understand, CC’s only upside is the $85 fee. The tuition stays within the community. Sounds like none of the $85 fee got to CC, and CC wrote it off. Sure that does nothing for the tutors who now work for free.

    Is CC liable for the licensee’s actions? Guess they had better have insurance or legal advice.

    That’s where there might be liability for letting others use your brand name, when they misuse it.

    Does CC control how communities are set up? No. Each director chooses its own financial structure.

    Do take that Director to task.


  26. Seems like they can’t have it both ways … CC is often promoted as superior to “local groups that might lack commitment” because they are national. But on a national level they are not accountable and offer no true support when things go wrong?


  27. David asked:
    Does CC control how communities are set up?

    If you count setting minimum tuition and fees, how many students can be in a community, how many students can be in a class, what age students may be in different classes, and the umpteen other things presented in their licensing agreement and 95-page “Directors Licensing Guidelines” book, then, yeah. CC pretty much controls communities, in my opinion.

    With much control comes much responsibility…


  28. Licensing doesn’t mean employment.
    Take a MacDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A franchise. The franchisee is obligated to comply with all details spelt out by the franchisor, in order that the brand experience is consistent. Employees of the franchisee are not employees of the franchisor.
    “Control” of operational details through a handbook by a franchisor in no way guarantees business success of a franchisee, not does it make the franchisor liable unless the fault was a result of the handbook or franchisor.
    CC’s communities are a promise by CC of a Christian, classical, community. Wide variations in communities detract from CC’s promise; CC has the responsibility over quality assurance, and does by spelling out in detail how to run the community.

    Understanding the homeschool culture of active self-reliance, CC reiterates its belief that parents are teachers, and its tutors are not the students’ teacher. CC works for parents who understand the upsides & downsides of the CC structure and know what they bring to their kids. CC does not offer expert subject teachers that co-ops might. CC does not guarantee expert classical teachers. CC does offer a journey with others, in which families and students might mutually gain.


  29. @David, “Licensing doesn’t mean employment. Take a MacDonald’s or Chick-Fil-A franchise.”

    Sure, these are all legal forms of maintaining consistency and control. What’s not legal is to call someone an independent contractor, and then treat them like an employee or a franchisee, and especially when the relationship is designed to deprive the employees/franchisees of rights they would normally have under the applicable laws.


  30. @Mark

    Bingo! CC can want and claim to be whatever. A franchise would give them the control to actually do/be what they want. Alas, they won’t follow franchise law. What can be done? 🤷


  31. Loolamay,

    What Is a Franchise?
    It does not matter what label the parties put on a transaction or agreement: license, joint venture, consulting and supply agreement, dealership; if an arrangement has all of the elements of a franchise, it’s a franchise. Scores of articles have been written about the dangers of becoming an accidental franchise. Those dangers are real, as many have learned when they face an unexpected regulatory enforcement investigation, or a lawsuit by a terminated licensee claiming the protection of franchise laws, or a major glitch in the sale of a company when the buyer’s due diligence uncovers a possible unregistered franchise program.

    There are three main elements of the definition of a franchise under federal law and most state franchise laws.
    Substantial Association with Trademark.
    Payment of a Fee.
    Marketing Plan/Community of Interest/Significant Control.
    … The FTC uses yet another standard: whether or not the licensor can exert significant control over the putative franchisee’s method of operating the business, or whether significant assistance is offered in the method of operation.

    Consequences of Violations of the Law. The FTC is authorized to bring suit for injunctions and restraining orders against violators of the FTC Rule. By administrative action, the FTC can issue an order requiring a franchisor to cease and desist from further violations of the Rule. While there is no private right of action under the Rule, the FTC may bring actions on behalf of franchisees, and can seek civil and criminal penalties. As with state statutes, liability may extend to officers, directors, and control persons of the franchisor individually.



  32. Seems the three elements are there:
    The trademark “Classical Conversations” can only be used by licensed communities
    The fee structure is paid to the director, who then pays CC a mandatory per-student fee.
    There is joint marketing, for example, of the programs and costs e.g. https://classical-conversations.helpscoutdocs.com/article/35-program-tuition-costs
    And control is established through the director having to agree to the licensing guidelines as mentioned above.


  33. Hi Julie. I found yourblog while searching “Classical Conversations” online but became intrigued in your blogs on spiritual abuse. I read several posts and was already a bit familiar with the lawsuit against Sovereign Grace. I scrolled all the way back looking for your own personal story with BCBC that sparked your blog but never found it. I did see your daughter’s post and I wondered if that was what your experience was? Did I completely miss it or has it been taken down? I am interested to know what began the entire thing.


  34. Hi Renee, thank you for your interest. If you go back to the beginning of the blog and move forward, you will see posts on various issues that described our experiences at BGBC. It’s scattered throughout the blog, primarily in the first year. Other stories are in the category “Julie Anne’s Personal Stories” (or something like that). Categories are listed on the right side of the blog. Hope that helps 😊


  35. So are Directors not independent contractors? I’m so confused because I feel like directors should be “employees” also, give how much control CC exercises over them as well… This is confusing! And wow what a horrible scenario, Evan. I wonder how it ended up now several years later?


  36. This is all very interesting. We have recently joined a community and I have been researching what it takes to become a director. One of my questions that I have not been able to find online is what is the pay for a director. That seems to be a closely guarded secret? Maybe another red flag? Does anyone know what the pay is?


  37. Hi, Lily.

    Directors get paid a certain amount per student. They are paid by the families, not CC. In fact directors pay CC for a license to use CC’s brand.

    In Foundations/Essentials the entire application fee per student, though paid by the family to the director, is owed by the director to CC, Inc. CC will hold you to owing what a family paid in app fees (usually paid in January and February for the following fall school year) even if the family withdraws – if the director has entered the family into the portal. This means CC, Inc. gets its cut for that family even if the director doesn’t.

    Tuition is $335. You, the director, keep 40% of that per student and pay 60% of it to tutors in Foundations. In Essentials, the director keeps 30% and the tutor is paid 70%. The hiring and liability for hiring the tutors correctly is on the director. So the F/E Director will be paid about $130 per student for the entire year for Foundations and about $100 per student for the entire year for Essentials. And, of course, CC makes it a requirement that their licensees (directors) enroll every school age child in their family in the CC program(s) that apply to their students’ ages, so many directors do not even make enough to cover their own children’s fees to pay CC, Inc and to pay the tutor or Challenge director.

    In Challenge, CC, Inc. takes a larger chunk – all of the app fee plus a portion of the tuition. The director pays $445 total per student to CC, Inc. So the Director gets paid around $900 per Challenge student for 6 hours a day, one day a week for 30 weeks.


  38. Effectively 40% of the tuition for each kid in foundations, minus all your small business expenses. You still also have to pay for your own kids. Take a hard look at the liabilities – if you incorrectly classified your workers, all your requirements as an employer, what if a child got hurt, if the church got a tax bill from your meeting in their space, public accommodation laws, township or county small business licenses, etc. Because you’d be a small business owner – a licensee, but it looks a lot like a franchisee, it’s a lot more legally than ‘just a group of moms’ or a co-op under the wing of a church.


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