McGeachin announces indoctrination task force members

Janice McGeachin and her husband, Jim, stand on the steps of the Idaho State Capitol as she announced her run for Governor in Boise on May 19, 2021. Sami Edge/Idaho Education News

A day after announcing she will run for governor in 2022, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin Thursday unveiled the membership list of her new “Task Force to Examine Indoctrination in Idaho Education.”

Members include an Idaho Freedom Foundation employee and a charter school leader who pushed to use the Bible in public schools.

A political philosophy professor and a former Idaho State Board of Education president have also joined the 14-member assembly.

The task force, aimed at rooting out alleged “teachings on social justice, critical race theory, socialism, communism, (and) Marxism” from public schools, will be co-chaired by McGeachin and Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, who entered the race for lieutenant governor. McGeachin has joined a group of national and state Republicans lambasting critical race theory in the classroom, most recently heralding her new task force as she announced her gubernatorial bid on the steps of the Idaho Capitol yesterday.

Critics, including State Board President Kurt Liebich say they’ve seen little evidence of widespread “indoctrination.” The State Board plans to conduct its own review of free speech concerns, outside of McGeachin’s task force.

“When we throw these umbrella terms around without defining them, then accuse the entire system of indoctrinating kids, that’s a pretty dangerous narrative,” Liebich told EdNews last week. “If the Idaho citizen believes that, because of that narrative, it will undermine the support for our public education system.”

Idaho Education News asked for the names of the task force members Monday in a public records request. It was returned Thursday evening when a press release including the membership list was sent to reporters.

Here’s what we know about the members so far:

Anna Miller, from the Idaho Freedom Foundation, is an active voice in education policy discussions. In recent months, she has testified in favor of policies targeting critical race theory and social justice in the classroom, at one point saying a controversial bill dealing with critical race theory did not go far enough to oust the content from public schools. The Foundation stirred upheaval in this year’s legislative session over leftist indoctrination in the classroom, an effort that stalled education budgets.

Isaac Moffett founded the now-defunct Nampa Classical Academy and drew headlines in 2009 when his school sued the state in hopes of using the Bible and other religious texts in his charter school’s curriculum. A federal district court later shot down the practice in 2011, the Associated Press reported. He left the school in 2010 and has worked as a teacher and school administrator since, according to his LinkedIn page. He’s now the principal of Marsh Valley Middle School in East Idaho.

Sonya Harris is a politically active Blackfoot school board trustee. In the past, she’s advocated for a sex education “opt-in” bill and has decried Common Core standards, at one point saying curriculum and textbook providers use Common Core to recommend “pornographic books” for use in schools, EdNews previously reported.

Elaine King previously ran for the Idaho House of Representatives in District 34, which covers the Rexburg area, in 2018, but lost in the Republican primary. She’s a former teacher who staked her campaign, in part, on her objections to Common Core, EastIdahoNews.com reported.

Jason Knopp is the vice chairman of the Melba School District’s board. He’s a career firefighter who has also represented his school district in the Idaho School Boards Association.

Joseph Kren was the principal at Priest River Lamanna High School through last spring, when he left the school after 34 years in Idaho education.

Karen McGee is a former Idaho State Board of Education executive director and president.

Rev. James Wilson first appeared through internet searches to be a controversial North Idaho evangelist who authored a book applying tenets of warfare to strategic evangelism, but he is not, McGeachin’s chief of staff Jordan Watters wrote by email May 27. The reverend on the task force lives in the Treasure Valley, has led a parachurch ministry for the last two decades, has a master’s degree in curriculum and development and is a credentialed teacher in Idaho and California, Watters said.

Professor Scott Yenor is a professor of political philosophy at Boise State University. His research focuses on the politics of families and marriage. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from Loyola University in Chicago.

The other task force members will be Janet Adams, Mark Hand, Michael Nelson, Ryan Spoon and Laura Van Voorhees.

McGeachin’s office announced last month that it intends to hold monthly meetings, May through August.

The first meeting will be in the Capitol building’s Lincoln Auditorium May 27 from noon to 5:00 pm. While the meeting will be open to the public, public questions and testimony will not be permitted.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the correct identity of Rev. James Wilson. A previous version of this story said he appeared to be a North Idaho evangelist, which he is not. 

Blake Jones

About Blake Jones

Reporter Blake Jones covers the politics and policy of Idaho's K-12 public school system. He's a lifelong Idahoan, and holds degrees in Creative Writing and Political Economy from the College of Idaho. Follow Blake on Twitter @jonesblakej. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

Read more stories by Blake Jones »

Republish this article on your website