Indoctrination Task Force Calls on Legislature to Make Many Changes |
Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin’s Education Indoctrination Task Force made half a dozen recommendations to the legislature on Thursday that ranged from targeting critical race theory to outright endorsement of choice from school.
Thursday afternoon marked the first time the committee had made recommendations or accepted live public testimony. This was the fourth and final scheduled meeting of the task force, first established amid a statewide debate over so-called left-wing teachings in schools. McGeachin convened the task force to protect “youth from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism” in schools in Idaho.
After hearing over four hours of testimony spread over whether indoctrination is a problem in public schools, the task force unveiled and approved six proposals, which were not released until the meeting or the testimony period.
The recommendations included:
• Repeal and replace Idaho’s new Critical Race Theory law, which prohibits forcing students to “affirm, adopt, or adhere” to certain teachings, including whether a race or gender is superior or that people are responsible for the actions of their ancestors because of their race. McGeachin suggested a new version that defines critical race theory, which is not defined in current law.
• Recommend to the State Board of Education and the State Department of Education to identify and resolve conflicts between their own administrative rules and part of the Idaho Constitution dealing with religious and sectarian teachings in schools, article 9, section 6. It is not clear who governs the working group was referring.
• Prohibit the use of federal grants “that encourage the practice of critical theories, or any educational model that promotes stereotypes and prejudices based on race, or claims that a particular race or American system is inherently racist”. The proposal identifies a rule of Biden administration, which in itself is not a grant, that prioritizes culturally appropriate education and information literacy when awarding certain federal dollars.
• Invite members of the House and Senate Education Committee to work with the task force to develop policies for the next legislative session. The working group needs the cooperation of these committees, as it has no legislative power of its own and was not created by the legislature.
• Submit a written testimony to the Council of State regarding a diversity policy that the Council is considering. Members of the task force have criticized politics and the State Council in previous meetings.
• Support the “Education Choice for Parents in Idaho”. The choice-of-school message suggested creating education savings accounts for school-aged children, placing public funds for education in accounts connected to a debit card to be used by children. private school tuition, home schooling and other costs related to education. The proposal also indicated that the money could be spent on enrollment in public and charter schools, which currently must be free under the Idaho Constitution; no one said if that was going to change. Task Force member Ryan Spoon, who pushed for the recommendation, said it would allow students to drop out of schools where critical breed theory is taught.
“I support the motions that we have passed so far,” said Spoon, “But I believe the one we are currently considering (pushing education savings accounts) is the only way to make a real change in the world. our school system. “
Previous meetings foreshadowed some of these recommendations. The task force has frequently expressed frustration with public education actors, including the State Board of Education, and the definition of critical race theory – whether or not done in more than a dozen d ‘meeting hours this summer – has been discussed on several occasions. But using the wide array of school choices to tackle the alleged indoctrination was a new approach on Thursday, and a handful of dissidents said they believed the school choice was outside their stated purpose of examining the indoctrination in schools.
All the proposals were approved in voice votes, with those relating to federal grants and the choice of schools drawing the only “no.”
What the working group heard
The Lincoln Auditorium at the Statehouse that hosted the meetings was at its most empty Thursday, with around 40 attendees shrinking to less than a dozen during the nearly five-hour meeting.
Still, more than a dozen people testified, some praising the task force’s mission with anecdotes about school indoctrination and others lambasting what they saw as baseless attacks on public education.
Dominik Sparling, a Boise high school graduate and sophomore at Boise State University, said he would love to be a government teacher and raise children in Idaho. He told the committee he was a registered Republican, but he feared the critical controversy over racial theory had left the instructors “walking on eggshells.” The teachers he knows have stopped teaching about current events, he said. He worries that if the task force limits what teachers can talk about – out of rule or out of fear – Idaho might start to resemble the restrictive environment his mother experienced growing up in the Soviet Union.
Senator Steven Thayn, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said critical race theory is Marxist in nature and contemplates using centralized power to combat systemic racism.
“I think critical race theory is a threat to our limited system of government,” Thayn said, R-Emmett.
But Thayn said critical race theory could be replaced with something he considers worse. He advocated that school boards play a role in strengthening curriculum and urged people to pay attention when the standards for teaching Idaho history are revised in the years to come.
Thayn was joined by Tony Wisniewski, a member of the House Education Committee, R-Post Falls, and briefly by Senator Regina Bayer, R-Meridian, as the only lawmakers in the crowd. It was the first time that more than a pair of elected officials had been in the room during the meetings of the working group. Usually, the co-chairs, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2022, and McGeachin, who is running for governor, are the only ones of these officials.
The witnesses had not seen any proposals
Since the recommendations were not made available to the public in advance, none of the testimony hours specifically commented on the proposals.
At the group’s last meeting a month ago, McGeachin said that “in all fairness and transparency” the task force would likely release the recommendations before the August meeting for the public to consider.
“Even though we are not recognized as a legitimate legislative committee, we still try to respect the principles of transparency and accountability, to publish these elements so that anyone who wishes to come and testify has time to see what we are talking about”, she said in July.
The proposals were never put online.
McGeachin said Thursday the recommendations weren’t even typed in until morning.
A public documents request from Idaho Education News for the proposals made on Monday was granted less than an hour before the meeting started, but no McGeachin staff were available to provide the documents before the meeting.
Boise High School student Shiva Rajbhandari criticized the task force for only accepting public comment now that most teachers and students were back in classrooms and pointed out that testimony from a distance were not allowed. (However, Laura Van Vorhees, a board member, read a task force’s testimony on behalf of one person.) Local students had protested at some of the task force’s meetings during the summer, but few were present at the meeting in early Thursday afternoon, which began during school hours.
“If it hadn’t been for this… I can guarantee you that this room would be packed as it was in the summer with empowered young people working to defend their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression,” said said Rajbhandari, before condemning the task. force for attempts to “bring Idaho back to the 1800s” with restrictions on racial education.
Once its scheduled meetings are over, the task force will now focus on advancing and clarifying its “broad” policy goals, McGeachin said.
Whether enough lawmakers will listen to influence policy change remains a question.
Disclosure: Idaho Education News was recently a party to an Idaho Press Club lawsuit against McGeachin for posting public comments to the task force. Thursday, a judge ruled in favor of the Press Club.
Originally posted on IdahoEdNews.org on Aug 26, 2021.