Voices from the Idaho EdNews Community

This 2023 session has been an alarm bell tolling from the edge of our community

Natalie MacLachlan Head Shot

As an educator, this session was successful and hopeful. Voucher bills were squashed. Teacher pay is supposed to increase. CTE programs and facilities money were approved. However, as an Idahoan, is it worth celebrating that we ‘held off’ voucher bills for a few months? Is it a win that we got increases for teacher pay, CTE programs and facilities money approved so that we could move up in rankings but still have to run massive bonds and levies? Is it success if it’s done simply to suggest – “we did it, now stop complaining. If we keep hearing about education after this then you’re just greedy and ungrateful”? Each of these things are meaningful, but the question is, were they really a win? Were lessons learned or are games being played and scheming strategies being put into place?

One of the areas I question if lessons were learned is vouchers. I hope the states that have implemented vouchers continue to produce data that demonstrates their lack of effectiveness in creating equity, academic success, and accountability. That would be coupled with a hope that the Idaho Legislature would consume, respect and use said data to inform future policy making. I don’t know if that will be the case.

So while the wins for education might feel good and were absolutely necessary, they aren’t something to write home about. This is even evident when we take a broader look at the horrific efforts made in other areas:

Squelching student voters from easy access to the ballot box, keeping migrant workers from the ability to legally drive, prohibiting cheer/dance/theater/burlesque/drag performances, censoring children’s books, allowing armed groups of people to march and intimidate citizens, the authorization to unholster and wave a loaded weapon around, and reinstating death by firing squad – because that was everyone’s big priority.

Women have lost the right to their own bodily autonomy, safety, and healthcare. Two Idaho hospitals have closed their women’s health wings because it is too dangerous to practice healthcare in this state and carries too great a risk of being criminalized for saving women’s lives. Minors cannot go to a trusted adult and seek help after being raped by a relative and ask that adult to remove them from the dangerous situation and take them to get help in another state.

Young people struggling with gender dysmorphia, depression, and suicidal ideation cannot receive medical treatment to save their lives, even with the consent of their guardian and a complete psych evaluation. Idaho is one of the leading states in death by suicide. It may quickly become worse. Young trans people will be lost. Women will be lost. Girls forced into birth or living out consequences of the worst experience in their lives, may be lost.

The effort to ban books arises because these are the very stories told in To Kill a Mockingbird, Bluest Eye, and Handmaids Tale. Are these things fun to read about? No, but we must remember that they occur and those in such a horrendous situation need to know they’re not alone and free to seek safety.

For the party that believes in local control, individual liberties, and personal responsibility – they sure have taken a lot away.

This session has been an alarm bell tolling from the edge of our community – begging us to get up, with a sense of urgency, gather together, and cast out that which is threatening, harming, and tearing us apart. There are elections this year for school boards, library boards, and city council. Before you know it, we will be back in session next January. We must use these tools to protect ourselves, to preserve our community. Only a new era of leadership will achieve that. Volunteer, share information, speak out and VOTE like your life depends on it. Many of ours do.

Natalie MacLachlan

Natalie MacLachlan

Natalie MacLachlan is an Idaho native and a middle school teacher in the West Ada School District with a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

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