Monday, August 02, 2021

Senate sends indoctrination bill to Gov's desk

Staff Writer | April 27, 2021 1:00 AM

A bill designed to prevent what lawmakers claim is a rash of indoctrination in Idaho’s schools passed the Senate Monday and is making its way to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 377 would prohibit schools — from K-12 to community colleges and public universities — from compelling students to adhere to or believe that any race, sex, ethnicity, religion or national origin is better than another, and that students who belong to such a category are not responsible for those categories’ actions of the past.

“Every individual should be treated equally under the law,” Sen. Jim Rice, R-Caldwell, said on the Senate floor. “No one should be compelled to think a certain way because someone else does.”

The proposed law was born out of concerns from House members who held up an appropriations bill dedicated to teacher pay unless the notion of indoctrination was addressed. Specifically, those lawmakers — and the language in HB 377 — rail against critical race theory. Critical race theory is an activist scholarly theory that suggests racial power imbalances are so widespread in our national story that they touch virtually every corner of our way of life.

Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise, said the bill was born out of a fear-based narrative and represents a slap to the faces of Idaho’s teachers.

“I know there was a lot of hard work and compromise on this bill, and I know that it was better than the first four or five drafts I saw,” she said. “But this Legislature is not needed … We have a group that, for public release, comments that our teachers are brainwashing our children with a liberal leftist indoctrination, and that’s simply not true.”

The House held up the teacher pay appropriation until intent language could be approved, but debates over policy disputes within appropriations bills and unsatisfying drafts of the language in committee meetings eventually led to HB 377. The bill passed the House Thursday on a 57-12 vote before going to the Senate Education Committee.

Once the Senate Education Committee approved the bill on a 6-3 vote Monday, the Senate — which had already adjourned for the morning and wasn’t scheduled to resume until the late afternoon — suspended the rules and immediately brought the matter up for debate.

The Senate passed the bill 27-8. It now goes to Gov. Brad Little’s desk for consideration.