Moscow High School seniors appeared unimpressed with legislative efforts to curtail alleged social justice programming in Idaho’s K-12 system while speaking Thursday with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra.
Ybarra visited with a high school history class while touring the state as part of her legislative “roadshow.”
House Bill 377, which was signed by Gov. Brad Little in late April, prohibits state public schools from teaching that “any sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, or national origin is inherently superior or inferior,” which, according to the bill, is thematic of “critical race theory.”
Speaking to MHS students, Ybarra said she was interested in hearing the thoughts of students surrounding these issues.
“I also want you to know that I’m starting a student advisory council, because when I was a building principal, most of my ideas came from the kids,” Ybarra said. “I always felt like, yes, I’m the adult, yes, I’m supposed to be making the rules and helping you follow them, but I need to know what you’re thinking and I need to know what’s affecting you and I need to hear your voice in order to make those decisions.”
Ybarra admitted many school administrators and educators who contacted her when these discussions began in earnest were unfamiliar with the term “critical race theory” in the first place. She said lawmakers often appeared moved to take action on the issue when hearing anecdotes from concerned parents or others, who feel that some teachers are indoctrinating students with so-called “social justice values.”
She said for the most part, these complaints have more to do with higher education than with the state’s K-12 system.
When a student asked “So why pass a bill that applies to K-12?” Ybarra’s response was, “Right? Exactly.”
“I can tell you 90 percent of the time, it’s really just a misconception of what’s going on,” she said. “Normally, when you have a conversation and say, ‘This is really what’s going on in class,’ it usually gets worked out.”
When another student brought up how the state of Idaho comes in dead last behind every other U.S. state and the District of Columbia when it comes to per pupil spending in K-12, Ybarra said such comparisons can be misleading.
She said Idaho’s formula for funding public schools in the state is complex but it’s not entirely appropriate to compare to other states on a per-pupil basis because funding for Idaho schools is largely based on attendance.
“I will tell you that we need more money for education (and) we need a different funding model -- we need to move to a different way to fund education and education needs more money,” Ybarra said. “But as far as achievement goes though -- do you know where you guys land? We are dead in the middle for achievement and for the very little money that we get.”
Scott Jackson can be reached at (208) 883-4636, or by email to email@example.com.