Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, is no fan of public schools.
A year ago, he wrote: “I don’t think government should be in the education business. It is the most virulent form of socialism (and indoctrination thereto) in America today. The predictable result has been higher costs, lower performance, and a system that twists itself in knots to prove it’s educating kids when really it’s not.”
But that was only the beginning.
In a fundraising letter last month, Hoffman took eight pages to express what that sage Groucho Marx once boiled down to a mere line: “Of course you know this means war.”
And war, it is.
Hoffman wants help promoting an agenda that would further dismantle the financial foundations of Idaho’s education system:
l Hoffman would allow parents to withdraw some of the taxes used to support public schools into an educational savings account “for any education-related expense.”
“Government schools should not be families’ only choice, and parents who want their child at a private school or learning at home shouldn’t have their tax money spent on an unused education at a government-run school,” he wrote.
l Hoffman would allow clusters of parents to pool their resources toward hiring their own charter teachers. “By cutting the administrative middle-man, teachers and parents would both get more autonomy to guide students and instruction.”
l Providing students with academic credit for skills they’ve already acquired.
This is hardly a good time for Idaho’s chronically under-funded schools, which rated 50th or 51st in the nation for per pupil expenditures.
Just ask Mountain View School District what it’s like to fill teaching vacancies after the district’s $3.9 million supplemental levy failed in June, leaving it more dependent on Idaho’s inadequate state support.
Just ask Bonneville School District in Idaho Falls what it’s like to run a school bus network when drivers quit and others get sick in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.
Now contemplate Hoffman’s agenda.
Vouchers would take money and some students from the classroom. But those who remain in traditional schools would require the same level of support. For instance, it doesn’t matter if an elementary classroom has 23 or 24 students. Those students still depend on a teacher as well as the infrastructure.
So the kids who are left behind deal with even smaller pieces of the education pie.
Cut out the “middle-man” and there is no one to provide independent supervision and training to inexperienced teachers. Here’s betting the kids will get the grades they like and learn nothing more than their parents want them to know. But who deals with discipline? Who reviews the curriculum and standards? What about the social-emotional needs of students, to say nothing of those with disabilities?
And setting up an experiential learning program suggests establishing criteria and hiring people to evaluate whether a student’s knowledge meets those standards. Does Hoffman propose to build another layer of educational bureaucracy?
Here’s his point: An education system that has been producing one of the most conservative electorates in the country has changed course. Says Hoffman, the graduates emerging today and in the future are a bunch of robotic-like dupes who have ignored the Idaho Freedom Foundation’s admonition to avoid wearing face masks and not practice social distancing during the pandemic.
“The Idaho we know and love is in danger because Idahoans increasingly accept the power of government over their lives: Ill-educated Idahoans depend on it, accept orders and can’t envision any other way to live,” Hoffman wrote.
Left to its logical conclusion, Idaho could go the way of Oregon with the rural counties overwhelmed by “socialists in the Capitol,” and radical Marxists terrorizing the streets of its cities.
“If Idaho’s future legislators embrace this way of thinking, it doesn’t matter how hard you and I fight today,” Hoffman said. “You can defeat government mask mandates, you can win tax relief, help families and businesses with free markets. In another generation or two, it could all be undone. ...
“There’s a host of powerful organizations that like the status quo,” he continued. “The teachers union, the State Board of Education and Idaho Department of Education, and leftist officials who fight to preserve a system that produces new foot soldiers for them.”
Between Idaho’s constitutional mandate that lawmakers “... establish and maintain a general, uniform, and thorough system of public, free common schools” and voters’ traditional support for education, Hoffman may be nibbling at the edges.
Nonetheless, Hoffman holds influence with many Idaho legislators — including Reps. Priscilla Giddings, R-White Bird, and Mike Kingsley, R-Lewiston — who prize getting favorable ratings on his Idaho Freedom Index.
So give Hoffman credit for transparency. He’s telling you straight out: If there’s any way he can dismantle your schools, he’ll do it.
Don’t say you weren’t warned. — M.T.