Idaho legislators have failed Idaho students and educators. This session should have been devoted to getting students back into classrooms, ensuring that schools and students have the resources to bridge the learning loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the mental and emotional health needs of our students, and recognizing the hard work and dedication of Idaho educators. Instead, lawmakers have chosen to try and score political points through senseless legislation, demoralizing and disrespecting educators with constant criticism of their performance in unparalleled times. Their actions are eroding confidence in our public education institutions and Idahoans of all political persuasions should be furious. The net result of the disastrous 2021 legislative session? Not a single piece of legislation was introduced or debated that would have helped Idaho’s K-12 students. Period.
In their most recent stunt, the Idaho House killed an appropriations bill that would have provided salaries and benefits to over 14,000 Idaho teachers. Their rationale? An unproven and irrational fear that students are being “indoctrinated”, and they must send a message to put teachers on notice. Lawmakers are concerned that civics lessons in Idaho schools are too radical. They say that educators should not be addressing controversial issues like racism and sexism. One legislator even argued that discussing equity is akin to promoting Marxist propaganda. These legislators are out of touch and out of control.
Idaho students must learn about the blemishes in America’s past or history is most certainly doomed to repeat itself. Consider in very recent Idaho history how the Aryan Nation set down roots in North Idaho and became a beacon of hate in our state. Or further back in our history, the shameful act of establishing a Japanese Internment camp in Minidoka during World War II, and how Mormon settlers were declared enemies–persecuted, attacked by militia, murdered, and marginalized–for their religious beliefs. Discussing our history in topics like women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Act, systemic racism, religious intolerance, or food insecurity are not radical propositions. They are, in fact, necessary components of a child’s education that will help our country heal from the scars of the past and foster a more united America.
The radical proposition is threatening to withhold salaries and benefits from educators, and a dangerous one indeed. Idaho has suffered a significant shortage of highly qualified educators for years and grandstanding stunts like the one pulled yesterday will only exacerbate the flight away from the profession. Disrespect and degradation of Idaho’s professional educators is no way to improve our education system. It seems that Idaho lawmakers are intentionally dismantling public education through underfunding of schools, canceling the voices of professional educators, and extremist grandstanding. The question is, to what purpose and to whose financial benefit?
President, Idaho Education Association