Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Op-Ed: Freedom Foundation politicians are gunning for Idaho public schools

by JIM JONES/Special to The Press
| January 24, 2022 1:00 PM

The Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF), an extremist political outfit that draws dark money support, is dedicated to getting rid of public schools in Idaho. IFF’s President, Wayne Hoffman, put it this way: “I don’t think government should be in the education business. It is the most virulent form of socialism (and indoctrination thereto) in America today.” If that is true, one wonders why Idaho schools have not turned into a Marxist haven during the 132 years since Idaho achieved statehood.

As a matter of fact, Idaho public schools have provided a free education to kids from every economic level, faith, race, creed, political outlook, whatever, since 1890. Public education is what has made the Gem State what it is. It will continue to do so into the future, if the Legislature follows its mandate under the Idaho Constitution to properly fund a “general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”

IFF doesn’t care much about that history. It has amassed a large cadre of Idaho legislators who jump to its every command to degrade the schools. Two of them, Priscilla Giddings and Chad Christensen, follow IFF’s wishes 100% of the time. Four of its legislative underlings, Ron Nate, Tammy Nichols, Karey Hanks and Heather Scott, follow orders an impressive 99% of the time. Thirty-four legislators have an IFF voting record of 80% or more.

Acting through the numerous politicians it controls, IFF has done everything possible in recent years to financially starve public education from pre-k through college. Idaho is dead last in education funding among the 50 states, which makes it difficult to maintain a high-quality education system. When education results fall short, IFF and its legislative minions claim the system is failing.

IFF says the solution is to divert taxpayer money to private schools, which would devastate rural communities. Public schools, particularly in rural Idaho, are the glue that holds communities together, not only for education, but for school sports and a myriad of other activities.

Most rural communities would not be within reasonable driving distance of a private school. IFF’s education “experts” point to a study saying “69% of families resided within 10 miles of a private school.” Seems those experts should study some Idaho geography to find that is not the case in our far-flung state.

Those experts go on to claim that rural students could take advantage of online learning opportunities, apparently overlooking IFF vice president Dustin Hurst’s October 20, 2020 rant about online learning. Hurst said, “kids need to be in school” and that “the impact of closed schools on communities is devastating.” IFF can’t have it both ways.

IFF also pretends to be in favor of schools being governed by local school boards, but one wonders who would control the content of online learning. Seems that would be controlled by the for-profit online vendor. It would be helpful if IFF would disclose its funding sources so that Idahoans could see whether they include for-profit private school businesses.

Idahoans cherish local control of their schools and local elected boards have been in charge forever. It is representative government at its grassroots best. IFF claims that online schools have to be certified, but that is nowhere near local control of schools.

Idaho parents clearly have a right to have their say with school officials and school boards. If boards are not responsive, a remedy is available at the ballot box. What recourse is there if out-of-state online private schools start indoctrinating students?

Voters can and should stand up against the concerted efforts of IFF and its legislative henchmen to wound and destroy our public system. If we treat the system right, it will continue to educate our kids to succeed in a world that gets more complicated each day. If IFF is able to carry out its plan to close down the public school system, it will rip the heart out of Idaho communities. That would also put taxpayers at the mercy of for-profit schools over which patrons would have no control.

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Jim Jones is a Vietnam combat veteran who served eight years as Idaho Attorney General (1983-1991) and 12 years as a Justice on the Idaho Supreme Court (2005-2017). He is currently a regular contributor to The Hill online news. He blogs at JJCommonTater.


Dark money support:


Wayne Hoffman put it this way:


It has amassed a large cadre:


Idaho is dead last in education funding:


IFF vice president Dustin Hurst’s October 20, 2020, rant: