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Idaho Senate passes controversial education bill 27-8

Posted at 4:09 PM, Apr 26, 2021

BOISE, Idaho — Education policy and curriculum taught in Idaho public schools have been a hot topic throughout the last few weeks of the Legislative session.

House Bill 377 passed the Senate Education Committee with a 6-3 vote and the Senate with a 27-8 vote.

HB 377 would prevent Idaho teachers and administrators from discussing any sort of belief system that claims racism or sexism are responsible for past actions in history with students. It would also prohibit any conversations claiming one group of people defined by their sex, ethnicity or race are better than or less than any other.

After the motion passed the Senate Education Committee, high school students and some teachers peacefully protested on the capital steps, then flooded the senate gallery while the bill was debated by senators.

Senate Chambers

Idaho lawmakers are calling the curriculum they believe is being taught in public schools "critical race theory" and say the new education policy bill is an anti-discrimination measure for all Idaho public schools.

When asked about the bill and evidence of "critical race theory" being taught in schools, bill sponsor Sen. Carl Crabtree said he was unable to provide specific evidence to support the claim. The Idaho School Board of Education does not have a stance on the measure yet but spoke during testimony.

"The Board of Education does not support indoctrination of any kind and at any level and I haven't talked to anyone that does," said Debbie Critchfield, Idaho State Board of Education president. "Every student is entitled to receive an education that does involve their own opinions and ideas without bias or prejudice from an instruction, a course material or even a system."

“We have a group that’s put out public comments that our teachers are brainwashing our children with a liberal, leftist indoctrination and that’s simply not true,” Sen. Janie Ward-Engelking (D) said.

During committee testimony, one Boise High School sophomore told the committee, this bill restricts being able to create opinions and share different views with his classmates

“As a student, I learn best when I'm allowed to teach myself. I love research projects and individual learning where I can go as in-depth as I want and make my own opinions about things and then share my findings and my reasoning with my class. This bill restricts that learning process,” Shiva Rajbhandari said.

State House lawmakers have held up passing bills related to Idaho teacher salaries, including a $1.1 billion teach pay deal until a measure is passed addressing what is taught in schools. A group gathered on the Statehouse steps shortly after the hearing to protest the passing of the bills.