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Politics & Government

Idaho House Rejects K-12 Teacher Raises Over Social Justice Concerns

James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio
Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard), seen in this file photo, was among several Republican hardliners who rejected a bill funding K-12 teacher salaries. They say they want more assurance social justice initiatives won't be taught in classrooms.

A bill giving raises for public K-12 teachers died by a single vote in the Idaho House Tuesday, with many Republicans again saying there needs to be stronger protections against teaching children about social justice issues.

Republicans last week killed the budget for Idaho’s public colleges and universities, which they accused of indoctrinating kids by teaching social justice concepts and critical race theory. Critical race theory elevates race when considering implications for educational and societal inequity.

On Tuesday, it was more of the same – this time for a $1.1 billion bill paying K-12 teacher salaries.

Rep. Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) said she supports educators, “But we need to protect our teachers from being forced to teach this garbage of social justice, including critical race theory.”

Specifically, Scott and others want to forbid any social justice or critical race theory lessons in the classroom by tacking on specific legislative intent language in the bill. They also want to block any of the $9 million intended for professional development from going towards teachers learning how to teach about social justice.

But teachers and former administrators insist the number of teachers in Idaho giving these lessons aren’t widespread.

“In my 32 years in two different school districts, a public charter school, I never saw any of this happening and still don’t see that happening,” said Rep. Julie Yamamoto (R-Caldwell), a retired school administrator.

Yamamoto did say, though, she sometimes had to warn some educators for teaching what she viewed as socialist or Marxist ideologies.

Rep. Ryan Kerby (R-New Plymouth), who was the superintendent for 21 years in New Plymouth, said he would guess “about 99% of all of our teachers are handling this properly.”

Kerby noted teachers didn’t receive a raise last year because of a budget holdback implemented by Gov. Brad Little.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we need to tell the educators in Idaho we appreciate them this year,” he said. “We need to say right now, ‘Thank you and here’s the money that you should’ve got at the beginning of the year.’”

“I don’t have time to teach critical race theory,” said Rep. John McCrostie (D-Garden City), a music teacher. “Are you kidding me? I have to just prepare my content for the next day.”

But Rep. Julianne Young (R-Blackfoot) said parents in her district told her about their kids learning critical race theory from their high school government teacher, though she declined to name the school or the district.

“So, I do believe that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s not a fringe issue. It’s a mainstream issue and it should be of significant concern to every one of us, regardless of which party we’re associated with,” Young said.

The move by hardline Republicans delays the possibility of the Idaho legislature adjourning soon.

Rep. Rick Youngblood (R-Nampa), co-chair of the budget writing Joint Finance and Appropriations Committee, said it could take up to a week for the group to rework the bill.

 Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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