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ISBA rep leaves indoctrination task force, decrying ‘partisan campaigning’

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Posted at 3:49 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-11 08:43:07-04

BOISE, Idaho — This article was written by Blake Jones of Idaho Education News.

Idaho School Boards Association President-elect Jason Knopp withdrew from the “Task Force to Examine Indoctrination in Idaho Education” Friday, a week after the committee’s first meeting.

“I didn’t feel that I was representing the trustees in the state of Idaho very well because of how the committee was running and so I chose to step down,” Knopp said.

In a prepared statement, the Melba School Board trustee reproached the task force’s composition and the way it carried out its inaugural meeting last week.

“Some of the comments made by committee members towards the end of the last meeting made it clear that the lack of education professionals on the committee would leave its members to make under-informed, disparaging statements about the thousands of professionals who take very seriously their responsibility of educating all of Idaho’s schoolchildren, including those in marginalized communities,” Knopp wrote.

“I was the only person from a stakeholder group that was selected to the committee, and I didn’t see anybody on there that was a curriculum director or had extensive experience in the curriculum that could be a guiding light or guiding person in the committee. So, I had reservations about that,” Knopp said.

Though current and former school administrators and a school board trustee remain on the task force, Knopp’s exit means the committee’s final three meetings in June, July and August will happen without representation from the ISBA, State Board of Education or State Department of Education.

Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin organized the committee to root out alleged leftist indoctrination from Idaho public schools.

Her office did not respond on Friday to questions about a possible replacement for Knopp.

“On April 16, we received a request from the ISBA stating the importance of the entity that is in charge of the curriculum standards have a seat at the table. We agreed. It is disappointing to learn that the organization no longer wants to have a seat at the table,” McGeachin wrote in a statement Friday afternoon.

McGeachin chose 15 people to serve on her task force, announcing her picks May 20. EdNews, through a public records request, asked McGeachin’s office for the names of those who expressed interest in participating. Among the 44 who expressed interest, the Idaho Education Association, the state teachers’ union, and Branden Durst, a state superintendent candidate, were not included.

A search for progressive-slanted teachings has come under fire from some state education leaders in recent weeks. It’s also caused a visible split among Republican leaders, which has outlasted the legislative session.

House Education Committee Chairman Lance Clow, R-Twin Falls, took a shot at the committee Friday morning, condemning its “partisan” membership and questioning why no members from either of the Legislature’s education committees are on the task force.

“I didn’t get an invite,” Clow told EdNews by phone.

And the conservative schism is supercharging what could be a brutally contentious primary in the spring of 2022.

McGeachin recently announced she’d run for governor, and her co-chair on the committee, Rep. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, announced a bid for lieutenant governor.

In light of the announcements, Knopp said the “context and purpose of the committee prompted further misgivings.” In leaving the task force, he wrote that its aim “seems to have more to do with partisan campaigning than it does with approaching a sensitive topic with respect, care, and the involvement of all voices at the table.”

“We had three presenters that were very on one side of critical race theory. It would have been nice to have the other side to have something to compare to, but, really, the pause I had was more on the stakeholders in public education. We have these people in the state of Idaho and they're all stakeholders. They all are deeply passionate and care about our kids and they weren't represented on that,” Knopp said.

The task force’s next meeting, set to focus on K-12 schools, will be June 24.

Click here for a list of task force members. Others who asked to be members include:

  • Branden Durst
  • Amelia Petruzzi
  • Bill Mulder
  • Tracy Krekeler
  • John Livingston
  • Debbie Belisle
  • Janis Johnson
  • Kalyn Hochstrat
  • Roger Garlock
  • Randall Parker
  • Daniel Murphy
  • Roger Garlock
  • Brook Barry
  • Alex Barron
  • Pete Coulson
  • Betsy Morri
  • Roxy Feller
  • Sandy Cardon
  • Max Brown
  • Zach Hunsuck
  • Melanie Almeidia
  • Lois Covelli
  • Rick Fletche
  • Monica Klennert
  • Channin Mitson
  • Nathan Staley
  • Robert Ludka
  • Heather Cook
  • Idaho Education Association
  • Jodi Eldridge
  • Doug Toomer

Idaho News 6's Nicole Camarda contributed to this report.