Monday, June 17, 2024

EDITORIAL: School district's Davids smack IFF's Goliath

| September 1, 2023 1:00 AM

While Hurricane Idalia was barreling into Florida’s west coast, a political tornado was sweeping through North Idaho.

In the hurricane’s wake: destruction.

In the tornado’s wake: inspiration.

Voters in West Bonner County School District, rallying behind the slogan Recall, Replace, Rebuild, overwhelmingly ousted two radical right school board trustees who were leading the schools toward ruin.

The two, Board Chair Keith Rutledge and Vice Chair Susan Brown, lost by margins approaching 2-to-1. But the most telling and hopeful numbers were these: 2,129-844.

The 844 was the total number of voters who had elected Rutledge and Brown in 2021. The 2,129 was the number of voters who rectified that double whammy of a mistake — nearly a three-fold increase in the number of district patrons who spoke up with their ballots.

In the incubator of radical politics, the biggest threat is broad participation. The so-called Idaho Freedom Foundation, which derides public education as a socialist plot and therefore embraces the candidacies of people like Rutledge and Brown, understands that their positions do not represent the majority in Idaho. So they rally their base and count their blessings when the masses do not participate in local elections.

If that formula sounds familiar, it should. The Idaho Freedom Foundation is chaired by Brent Regan, who happens to also head the Kootenai County Republican Central Committee.

Whether IFF is the chicken or the egg doesn’t matter. What matters is that the formula above has been applied locally with disastrous results, as KCRCC-endorsed candidates are ruining North Idaho College and the Community Library Network while sending their extremists to misrepresent our region in the Legislature.

Recall really isn’t an option for NIC’s trustee majority because the threshold to get that on the ballot is overwhelming. But West Bonner County School District patrons have launched a stone into IFF’s eye, and not just because of the results from the higher participation in Tuesday’s election. West Bonner’s recently appointed and wholly unqualified superintendent, Branden Durst, isn’t just an IFF darling; he was on its payroll.

Durst’s days as superintendent are almost certainly sunsetting, and perhaps the trustees who replace Rutledge and Brown can help the two pro-education, pro-community board members undo some of the other damage done by their predecessors.

In the grand scheme of Idaho elections, one small school district’s action might look at first glance more like a molehill than a mountain. But as Coeur d’Alene School District patrons also rallied to overwhelmingly support a once-defeated levy this spring, even molehills can shift momentum.

Congratulations and appreciation go to the inspiring citizens of West Bonner County School District.

Recall. Replace. Rebuild.