For an outfit that doesn’t think too highly of public-funded schools and colleges, the Idaho Freedom Foundation sure spends a lot of its time and resources on education.
Consider this summer alone.
When Betsy Russell of the Idaho Press filed a public records request, she unearthed a series of emails from IFF to Rep. Barbara Ehardt, R-Idaho Falls — and presumably to other lawmakers who share her conservative outlook.
For a two-month period, Russell found nine emails focused on the following:
l Boise State University’s campus diversity programs. Ehardt is the author of a letter, signed by 27 Republican colleagues, that was critical of the BSU initiatives. However, it turned out much of her critique was in error. For instance, BSU did not discard a general commencement exercise, so separate programs — such as a “Rainbow Graduation,” a “Black Graduation” or other events for first-generation graduates or international students — occurred later. For another, many of these post-commencement celebrations were funded not with state tax dollars or even tuition payments but from fees Coca-Cola paid for exclusive access to the campus market.
IFF kept Ehardt in the loop, including the June 6 distribution of a newsletter then-interim BSU President Martin Schimpf sent to faculty and staff about the diversity effort. In the heading of his email, IFF Vice President Fred Birnbaum warned: “BSU is going in an increasingly radical direction.”
l Higher education funding. Colleges and universities already get enough state dollars, Birnbaum asserted in a July 24 email.
Of course, that ignores years in which lawmakers failed to remedy deep cuts in state support made during the Great Recession. Also ignored is how decades of Idaho disinvestment in higher education has shifted the burden. Students, who paid 7 percent of the cost of instruction in 1980, now pay 47 percent, according to a recent Idaho Center for Fiscal Policy study.
l Common Core. IFF has led the charge against this program, implemented in Idaho as Idaho Core Standards. On July 1, IFF President Wayne Hoffman offered his encouragement: “Help Repeal Common Core. ... You can make it happen.”
IFF whipped up enough support to trigger public hearings on the issue. But at those forums, the program has maintained substantial support from parents and educators who see it providing some continuity from school to school, city to city and state to state.
The question is not so much that IFF has sought to reconcile public school and higher education policy to its point of view; the question is why it bothers.
After all, it was only six months ago that Hoffman offered this assessment:
“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.”
See any inconsistency?
Hoffman does not.
But when it came to Medicaid expansion, Hoffman did not nibble around the edges. He didn’t mimic an incrementalist. He did not try to nudge the process an inch or two closer to his point of view.
He tried to stop it outright.
Since IFF does not share the source of its money, you can only surmise what motivates its actions. Still, any organization that does not believe in public schools and colleges has little to offer people who are trying to preserve and improve both institutions.
So why doesn’t IFF stop wasting everybody’s time?
Enough of the talk about campus diversity programs, college and university funding and public education academic standards.
Call for the abolition of “government” schools and higher education.
Lay out a blueprint for replacing it with private education for those who can afford it —and low-wage, unskilled jobs for those who can’t.
If this is what IFF believes, why not simply say so? — M.T.