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Senate Bill 1202 — State Board of Education Appropriation

Senate Bill 1202 — State Board of Education Appropriation

Fred Birnbaum
April 13, 2021

The Idaho Spending Index examines appropriation bills on several fronts to add some important context to lawmakers’ discussions as the spending bills are considered on the House and Senate floors. As we look at the budget, we consider the following issues:

Does the agency requesting these funds serve a proper role of government? Has wasteful or duplicative spending been identified within the agency, and if so, has that spending been eliminated or corrected? Have budget-writers reviewed existing outlays to look for opportunities to contain spending, e.g., through a base reduction? If there is a maintenance budget, is that maintenance budget appropriate? Are the line items appropriate in type and size, and are they absolutely necessary for serving the public? Does the budget contemplate adding new employees or programs? Does the appropriation increase dependency on the federal government?

Our analysis is intended to provide lawmakers and their constituents with a frame of reference for conservative budgeting, by summarizing whether appropriation measures contain items that are truly  objectionable or legitimate and worthy of support.

Bill Description: Office of the State Board of Education, FY22 appropriation

Rating: -1

This appropriation adds 7 full-time positions to the Office of the State Board of Education (SBOE). It shows a net increase of 3.5 because 4 positions are shifted as a result of a separate bill, H173. This amount is slightly higher than is shown in the budget motion,which is a net increase of 3 FTP. The difference of a 0.5 FTP may be resolved with a supplemental motion.

This budget would add a highly-compensated deputy director’s position, with a total appropriation of $166,100 of General Funds. 

It is also not clear what educational benefit comes from paying $61,000 in dues to the Education Commission of the States. Idaho joined the commission in 1967 (and the state’s agreement to participate in the commission is codified in Chapter 41, Title 33, Idaho Code.) At that time, the commision administered the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The NAEP test was moved away from the commission in the 1980s, however. Since that time, the commission has been busy supporting efforts to expand government-run education, including pre-kindergarten programs, most recently with the help of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In the past couple of years, the commission has generated research supporting racial and gender division rhetoric typical of left-leaning organizations. 

Finally, it is clear from recent investigations and debates that the State Board of Education was asleep at the wheel when social justice activities crept into Idaho’s universities. The SBOE had to be goaded to take any action to push back against the social justice agenda which includes such noxious notions as critical race theory. The SBOE staff provided data behind the claim that social justice expenditures in Idaho’s colleges and universities amounted to $409,000, and only at BSU. This is demonstrably incorrect. For example, the University of Idaho has a chief diversity officer, whose job is to advance the social justice agenda. In fact, all four state universities devote some resources to social justice, something not acknowledged by the SBOE in its $409,000 amount attributed to BSU. The SBOE did not support H116, a bill to make certain student fees optional.

In summary, the SBOE has shown little inclination to support or enact educational reform, and rewarding this agency with an overall appropriation increase as well as a deputy director sends the wrong message.

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