The Idaho House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill that prohibits teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) in the state’s educational institutions.
The legislation is called “HB 377,” and was passed by the Idaho House of Representatives by a 57-12 vote on Thursday, April 22, and by the Senate by a 28-8 vote on Monday, April 27, after a historic debate considered one of the longest in the state’s history.
The bill seeks to stop Idaho educational institutions from teaching their students that a demographic group may be inferior or superior depending on its racial characteristics. It also seeks to prevent schools from teaching theories that stipulate that certain races are “inherently responsible” for actions committed in the past by their demographic group.
“No school district, or other public corporation, shall ever make any appropriation or pay from any public fund or moneys whatever, anything in aid of any … sectarian … purpose” and “no sectarian … doctrines shall be taught in the public schools, nor shall any distinction or classification of pupils be made on account of race or color”House Bill 377
The legislation will be put into effect if the state’s Republican governor, Brad Little, signs the bill passed in the Idaho Senate. Such legislation would limit a recent order issued by the Department of Education about giving funding priority to those school districts that add topics such as Critical Race Theory to their educational curricula.
Idaho Legislation, a response to the Department of Education
On April 19, the Department of Education proposed a rule for school districts to obtain priority grants “for American History and Civics Education programs, including the Presidential and Congressional Academies for American History and Civics (Academies) and the National Activities programs, Roll Call Numbers 84.422A and 84.422B.”
What the proposal says is that, basically, school districts that include “anti-racist” topics such as Critical Race Theory or analysis of the controversial Project 1619 published in The New York Times in their curricula will be given priority for federal funding.
The Idaho House of Representatives has rejected bills to fund colleges, and which allocates money to higher education, because of conservatives’ concerns about social justice and anti-racist issues infiltrating educational institutions through school curricula.
Thus, some legislators are hopeful that HB 377 is the way to prevent “social justice” or “anti-racism” related issues from continuing to enter educational curricula while approving stalled school funding.
However, as seen in Idaho Ed News, there is also the problem that even several important education budget bills remain in limbo; and there are concerns that HB 377 may, for example, break from the priority that the Department of Education imposed last April 19.
Likewise, an Idaho House co-sponsor, Rep. Julianne Young, commented in debate HB 377 that it is “abundantly clear” that President Biden’s administration will “push Critical Race Theory and social justice education at the federal level,” highlighting the importance of passing and implementing the state bill.
“This bill is not intended to prohibit discussion in an open and free manner,” said the legislation’s sponsor, Republican Senator Carl Crabtree.
Conservatives and progressives criticize HB 377
The new legislation did not go under the table and generated criticism from both conservatives and progressives, albeit for different reasons.
“The bill is looking for a problem that doesn’t exist in Idaho’s public education system, where students are not learning lies about American history,” Idaho Democratic senator Ali Rabe commented to Fox News. “The bill could stifle free speech in the classroom on topics related to race and sex. Students are at risk of being precluded from learning about objective historical truths.”
On the other hand, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative group, criticized the law as “insufficient and vague.”
“Faculty members, teachers and professors could still be forced to undergo anti-racist or culturally responsive training if they wish to serve on search committees or even get or keep a job,” the Freedom Foundation charged in a statement.
“In addition, the bill imposes no consequences on public universities and schools that violate section 33-138 of the bill by forcing students to affirm Critical Race Theory,” they explained.