Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

Students will not come to Idaho if SB 1357 passes

The banner above the entryway of the Idaho State Senate. Kyle Pfannenstiel/Idaho EdNews

Way back in 2021, I found myself on a Zoom call with the University of Idaho’s LGBTQA Office Director Julia Keleher eight time zones away while I was deep into my master’s program in England studying plant extinction. While she might not remember me, I remember her because she is, simply put, the sole reason I chose the University of Idaho to spend the next four to five years studying for a doctorate degree in geography and tree ring sciences, and a masters degree in English. Jumping from Kentucky, the state I was born, to England, and now Idaho, I was looking for a place that I could set roots in for my mid-20’s, and have delighted in calling Idaho this place home.

Since arriving at the University of Idaho, I have and continue to work and volunteer at multiple Idaho businesses and nonprofits and am the lead instructor on a 45-student lecturer for a climate sciences course—a majority of students of which are from rural, Idaho communities. All of these enumerated activities are not a result of my own efforts, but are quite literally the opposite. All of these activities are a beautiful and rich testament to the community and teaching-mindset in Idaho.

However, if the proposed legislation on Idaho Senate Bill No. 1357 passes this 2024 legislative session, the sole person, Julia Keleher, that brought me to the state of Idaho would be terminated. Therefore, the local businesses and nonprofits I have worked and volunteered with, and the 45-student class would cease to exist. This begs the question: Do Idaho lawmakers actually have education and community as their priority when drafting legislation? If this bill would have passed just a few years prior, there would have been one less student, and, most importantly to our shared community and educational endeavors, one less educator in service to Idahoans.

However, my story is an individual experience, and, in so many ways, not unique. Many queer and trans folks, students of color, veterans, international students, Indigenous students, women, students from migrant families, and the myriad of other underrepresented minorities are at the University of Idaho and beyond decided to reside and contribute to the state of Idaho because of these programs, people, and jobs that Senate Bill No. 1357 seeks to eliminate.

In their effort to ‘save taxpayer dollars,’ legislators will be directly encouraging thousands of students across our state in higher education from even thinking about coming to Idaho to live, work, and thrive. These programs are vital to the ongoing recruitment and retention of our collective fight to keep education as the priority for generations to come. I hope fellow community members in our state can join in a shared vision that celebrates futures with people who choose a state that wants them here.

Nick Koenig is a Geography PhD student & English MA student at the University of Idaho.


Nick Koenig

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