When the Idaho School Boards Association learned that the lieutenant governor was putting together a task force on “indoctrination” in Idaho schools, it wanted a seat at the table, President-elect Jason Knopp said.
Knopp was added to the task force, but about a week after it met for the first time, he resigned.
“We left that (first) meeting with no definition of critical race theory, no idea if it fits within Idaho’s core standards or not,” Knopp, a Melba School Board trustee, told the Idaho Statesman in a video interview.
“We were coming into another meeting and we’re now supposed to have curriculum and all this stuff brought to us to now investigate, but I still didn’t know what we were even investigating because we hadn’t even defined it.”
Knopp, who stepped down June 4, was one of more than a dozen people on the task force created by Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin to investigate claims of indoctrination in Idaho education.
When she announced the group, McGeachin said she thought the issue was “one of the most significant threats facing our society today.” A press release from the lieutenant governor’s office in April said the task force was an effort to “protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism.”
“We must find where these insidious theories and philosophies are lurking and excise them from our education system,” McGeachin said in a statement in April.
Knopp said he thought about stepping down from the task force even before the first meeting, meant to introduce the task force members and discuss what critical race theory is. His goal was to represent the trustees in Idaho.
Shortly after learning he was being added to the committee, he found out that McGeachin was running for governor and Rep. Priscilla Giddings, who was co-chairing the task force, was running for lieutenant governor.
“Right then, I had some pause,” he said. “Now, we have two people that are running for governor and lieutenant governor that are now co-chairing this committee. What is this really going to look like?”
“So then there was even more pause at that point,” he said. “I’m like, ‘OK, well, what are we doing?’ I was expecting other stakeholders and people from different parts of education that have a stake in it, in public education in the state of Idaho, to all be a part of this.”
The morning of the first meeting, McGeachin — who was acting governor at the time — issued an executive order banning mask mandates, which were still in effect in some school districts. That order was quickly repealed, and criticized, by Gov. Brad Little the next day.
For Knopp, it added to his hesitancy about the task force.
“That goes against the core of one of the things we really advocate for with ISBA, and it’s local governance,” Knopp said.
After going to the first meeting, he said, issues kept piling up.
The task force seemed “very one-sided,” he said, and he felt there was a lack of transparency.
“All that together, I was like, I’m not doing my job representing school boards in this because … we don’t have a good group of constructive people to move forward with this education task force,” he said.
Going into the task force, Knopp said he was hoping members would look at curricula in Idaho and “judge it based off of what definition this committee came up with.”
“I was very certain, I had so much faith in the trustees in the state of Idaho,” he said, “that we were going to go through that and find nothing in our K-12 system.”
McGeachin said in a statement that it was “disappointing” to see Knopp withdraw.
“On April 16, we received a request from the ISBA stating the importance of the entity that is in charge of the curriculum standards have a seat at the table. We agreed,” she said. “It is disappointing to learn that the organization no longer wants to have a seat at the table.”
As of Thursday, there have not been any people added to the task force, McGeachin’s office said in an email.
The task force plans to meet three more times over the summer, with the next meeting on June 24 expected to cover K-12 education.
Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho Statesman in partnership with Report for America. The position is partly funded through community support. Click here to donate.