The ill-named Idaho Freedom Foundation (IFF) has encountered substantial reversals in recent months in its avowed war against Idaho’s public school system. Lest anyone forget, IFF’s chief bottle washer, Wayne Hoffman, famously declared: “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.” The dark-money-funded IFF is flailing in its quest to find a new weapon to defund and discredit our public schools.
IFF initially achieved success in its crusade against our schools by compelling its legislative minions to fight against practically every effort to adequately fund educational programs (IFF’s current minions are legislators who scored over 70% on the group’s Freedom Index). When the meager funding resulted in less-than-stellar student performance, IFF claimed that our “government” schools were failing.
In recent years, IFF has intensified its hostilities against public schools by employing fake culture war claims. The obvious intent is to discredit our school system and try to replace it with private, but publicly-funded, schools. Some of IFF’s dark money appears to come from interests that just happen to be invested in such private schooling opportunities.
In 2020, IFF made the false claim that Idaho schools were indoctrinating children with critical race theory (CRT). The legislators owned and operated by IFF parroted those claims throughout the State, even though most of them had no idea what CRT is. Two of IFF’s favorite cheerleaders, Janice McGeachin and Priscilla Giddings, conducted a witch hunt to ferret out the dreaded CRT and came up empty.
The problem was that, after the dust settled, local school patrons realized their locally-elected school boards would not put up with any sort of improper attempts to indoctrinate their kids. They knew their local teachers, many of whom grew up in the community, were doing their level best to educate the kids, not indoctrinate them.
IFF then tried selling the false claims that teachers were engaging in various supposed evils–social emotional learning and social justice. Jesus was a big advocate of social justice, so it could not be all that horrible. Those claims more or less fell flat.
Most recently, IFF’s supposed education “experts” falsely claimed that Idaho’s schools were giving “Porn Literacy” to K-12 students. The IFF report was discredited and fully debunked practically before the ink on it was dry. No wonder, one of the authors was Scott Yenor the disgraced professor who claimed college women were “medicated, meddlesome and quarrelsome.” Ouch!
The primary elections produced another setback for IFF. In the southern part of the State, it lost three of its leading lights in the House–Ron Nate, Karey Hanks and Chad Christensen–and made few gains. About half of the IFF acolytes who made it through the primary election voted in favor of the Governor’s special session education plan to increase education spending by $410 million. That indicates a substantial lessening of IFF’s influence, even among its primary election survivors.
In another recent blow to IFF, the Heritage Foundation, which is generally a powerful IFF fellow traveler, has reported that Idaho public schools are much better than anyone would expect, based on their low level of funding. The Foundation’s September 9 report card ranks Idaho first in the nation for return on investment. According to Heritage, “Idaho taxpayers will be glad to know they’re getting bang for their buck.” What Heritage did not say, is that we would be getting even more bang if we put more state funds into teacher pay so that we did not have so many teacher vacancies across the state.
The Heritage Foundation report has some deficiencies, but it is a powerful rebuttal of the false claims that IFF has been tarring our public school system with over the years. Public schools are the heart and soul of every community across the State. Instead of trying to tear them down, like IFF loves to do, we should be doing our level best to build them up with proper funding and strong public support.