by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Anna Miller writes for the Martin Center about higher education challenges in Idaho.
We are living in an era of unprecedented pressure for ideological conformity within institutions of higher education. Idaho’s Legislature has led the way toward reforming public universities through budgetary controls. Lawmakers were awakened to the need for reform by in-depth reports, which led to the House calling for a $4 million budget reduction at the universities. Red states are following suit and trying to resist the ideological pressure in higher education, but they face a unique challenge. They have to combat the establishment right’s reassurance that deceptive rhetoric is not only harmless, but that the state’s education system is immune to the advancement of Critical Social Justice (CSJ).
Recent events in Idaho reflect this manipulative strategy.
Although Idaho has Republican supermajorities in both state legislative bodies, Republican state board members are part of the education establishment. Amid public backlash against the politicization of the education system, the board has claimed all allegations are “unfounded” while simultaneously endorsing CSJ advancement — and denying that that is what it is doing.
During the 2021 session, legislators cut university budgets by $2.5 million and implemented a tuition freeze for the second time due to concerns over the intrusion of CSJ. Meanwhile, the state board asserts there is no critical race theory in Idaho, only diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), they say, which is supposedly unrelated. In Idaho, people are told, DEI is just a respectable deliverance of American common sense. There is nothing revolutionary in the support of DEI.
The latest example is the board’s new policy mandating that universities implement DEI initiatives. Each university must adopt DEI policies and incorporate them into their mission statement. Universities must also continue complying with their accreditation institution, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, which demands adherence to DEI.