The Idaho Republican Party signaled its future plans for the Idaho State Board of Education (SBOE) by changing its party platform to support direct election of SBOE members, rather than gubernatorial appointment. The SBOE has promoted initiatives that go against family values, so parents deserve the agency to directly elect these officials who play a huge role in the education of their children.
On July 16, the Idaho GOP concluded its convention in Twin Falls by amending its platform to include support for the direct election of members of the SBOE. Under current Idaho law, the SBOE consists of a superintendent, who is elected, and seven board members who are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the senate.
Since members of the SBOE are not directly elected, the public cannot directly hold them accountable.
The SBOE’s actions demonstrate why this change is necessary. In 2020, the SBOE and the State Department of Education (SDE) included social-emotional learning (SEL) as part of their reopening plan. In a report submitted to the federal government to receive American Rescue Plan funds, the agencies admitted to giving a SEL Roadmap for Re-Opening Schools to every school district in the state. This resource argues schools should adopt anti-racist practices, focus lessons on social justice, and put staff through implicit bias training.
Parents pushed back against this rise of SEL in schools. In response, SDE spokeswoman Kris Rodine announced that the SDE was not abandoning SEL but rather renaming it behavioral health. The SBOE did nothing to stop the SDE attempt to evade the desire of parents that schools eschew therapeutic education models.
When it comes to school choice, public opinion polling shows that 75% of school parents support education savings accounts in Idaho. Yet, the SBOE has declined to support school choice proposals in the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions.
The SBOE needs to be held accountable. SBOE members serve for a term of five years, giving them considerable power to change the trajectory of children’s education.
The Idaho Legislature could pass legislation adopting the standard included in the Idaho GOP platform. With Republican supermajorities in both the House and the Senate, public officials will soon reveal to voters whether or not they will defend the will of the people's party.