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Legislature’s budget panel fails again to contain leftward higher education system

Legislature’s budget panel fails again to contain leftward higher education system

Wayne Hoffman
March 13, 2020
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March 13, 2020

Legislative budget writers were given another chance Thursday to address their colleagues’ concerns about Idaho’s public college and university political pandering with a socialist twist. But the 20-member Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee opted to do nothing — again. Committee members did nothing despite their colleagues' pleadings to stop the use of tax money that supports the Left’s stomach-churning campus programs.

The message — that spending shouldn’t fund radical social justice programs at colleges and universities — seemed pretty clear as days ago the House rejected the JFAC budget for higher education. Rep. Vito Barbieri summed up the issue rather nicely when he spoke out prior to the House’s 37-32 vote, which rejected the budget. 

“We’re talking about equity and inclusion instead of reading, writing and arithmetic. Why is it that university towns, every time they’re polled, show a socialist bent? It has to come from those that are teaching the curriculum,” Barbieri explained. 

He added, the college and university bureaucracy “has already turned left.” The North Idaho lawmaker encouraged legislators to “stop rubber-stamping these budgets and begin to send a message that we do have a say in what’s taught and we do have a say on who they’re hiring, for what purposes they’re hiring them.”

But, JFAC ignored Barbieri's and other colleagues' concerns altogether. Immediately following the higher education budget’s defeat, the panel signed off on another budget that again places no restriction on Idaho’s higher education system. Indeed, the budget panel’s budget calls for spending that is above the governor’s recommendation. That JFAC vote came even as legislators were handed information that shows most of the state’s highest paid employees work for the state’s four-year schools, with key administrative officials making in excess of $230,000 — roughly $100,000 more than Idaho’s governor. 

If the House and Senate goes along with JFAC’s latest budget, nothing will stand in the way of Idaho’s colleges and universities continuing their aberrant behavior. Boise State University will keep using affirmative action to award graduate student slots. Campus administrative officials will continue their strange obsession with gender and pronouns. BSU and the University of Idaho will continue graduation programs divided by race and sexual orientation. The University of Idaho will continue to have an entire office with staff and resources devoted solely to LBGTQ students. Schools will keep sponsoring Tunnels of Oppression, wherein students are subjected to vulgar screams, supposedly so that they’ll understand what it’s like to be a minority. BSU will maintain its Book Circles, in which white faculty and staff are encouraged to learn about white people’s racism. BSU will move ahead with plans to hire a vice provost whose sole job will be the promotion of “equity and inclusion,” whatever that means.  

Some legislators on JFAC are spinning a new myth: They say they’re powerless to direct spending, even as they pass other budgets that do exactly that for other government agencies. For example, the budget for the state treasurer limits that agency’s spending on bank fees; the Department of Correction is instructed how much to spend on certain types of meals; agencies across the board are told how many employees can be hired, and so on. Directing the use (or non-use) of public funds is clearly in the panel’s wheelhouse. Over the next few days, as lawmakers race to adjourn — they’re perhaps equally motivated to run for re-election as they are to run from coronavirus — they need to take a moment to remember: They control the pursestrings. When government institutions spend money atrociously, it’s up to elected officials to provide oversight. What happens next will show whether the Legislature will continue to allow Idaho’s universities to build out their social justice infrastructure.

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