DEFEATED – Only Idaho School Board Member on Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s “Indoctrination Committee”

Hold Idaho Accountable was very active in helping to defeat Sonya Harris, the ONLY incumbent Idaho school board trustee who had been willing to be on Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin’s “Indoctrination Committee.” This Indoctrination Committee has been investigating Idaho teachers and school districts based on false allegations and wild conspiracy theories. Volunteers with Hold Idaho Accountable sent out letters and text messages and made calls in support of Sonya Harris’s opponent.

On November 2nd, 2021, retired school teacher Cleon Chapman won in a landslide 490 to 225 over incumbent Sonya Harris.

Sonya Harris’s service on the Indoctrination Committee was designed to denigrate public education, giving credibility to false allegations so that it is easier to drastically reduce funding for public schools.

In fact, the Idaho Freedom Foundation, which supports Lt. Gov. McGeachin and her Indoctrination Committee, has said that it wants to completely eliminate funding for public schools. Idaho is already LAST IN THE NATION in per-pupil funding for K-12 education, and Idaho’s children CANNOT afford drastic cuts in education funding.

The only other Idaho school board trustee on McGeachin’s Indoctrination Committee, Jason Knopp, incoming president of the Idaho School Board Association (ISBA), had resigned from the Indoctrination Committee earlier in the year after attending just one meeting. These are words from his resignation letter:

“Some of the comments made by committee members towards the end of the last meeting made it clear that the lack of education professionals on the committee would leave its members to make under-informed, disparaging statements about the thousands of professionals who take very seriously their responsibility of educating all of Idaho’s school children, including those in marginalized communities.

The context and purpose of the committee prompted further misgivings when both of the co-chairs announced their candidacy for Idaho’s highest political office. ISBA suddenly found itself as a party to a committee whose purpose seems to have more to do with partisan campaigning than it does with approaching a sensitive topic with respect, care, and the involvement of all voices at the table. Our concerns about this committee were further solidified when the first meeting made it clear the committee didn’t intend to research claims of indoctrination, but instead invited individuals who are well known for pushing anti-public education rhetoric around the state and our country.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not controversial topics in our view. As school leaders, we have a responsibility to help all the children in our care reach their highest potential. Some of Idaho’s largest and best corporations tell us regularly that competence in these areas is necessary for recent graduates to be viable employees. Lastly, we are confident that our school districts and charter schools have processes in place for any patron to inspect curricular materials and file grievances regarding any material they feel gives cause for concern.

As a leader elected by my peers to represent school boards across Idaho, I have made the choice to withdraw from the Lt. Governor’s Education Taskforce. We respectfully ask the co-chairs, and the committee, to consider the negative impact their words will have on school communities. As always, the ISBA is a resource for school leaders, other duly elected officials, and the public. We would be happy to provide information on steps school boards are taking to ensure all students are respected and provided with the education they need to thrive.”

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