Lewiston Tribune Editorial Board
For the sake of discussion, let’s say that the leading critic of Idaho’s public education budgets in the Legislature works for a private academy.
The more he complains about the shortcomings of public schools, the more likely some parents will turn to the private education model and possibly his own school.
Or what if a legislative budget writer spends his winters in Boise criticizing the state lands department while devoting his springs, summers, and autumns to running his private tree farm? You would have to wonder where his main loyalty lies.
So why does state Rep. Ron Nate, R-Rexburg, get a pass?
From his perch on the Legislature’s joint finance and appropriations committee, Nate last week conducted a one-on-one interview of the three state university presidents.
As Kevin Richert of Idaho Education News reported, Nate asked Boise State University President Marlene Tromp three times about how she implemented the 1.5 budget cut. million from last year and whether it had followed legislative guidelines to withdraw what he called “unnecessary spending” on social diversity, equity and inclusion programs.
People also read…
Rather than accept his answers, Nate accused Tromp of expanding the programs he finds so objectionable.
“Did I miss something?” He asked.
When it was the turn of Idaho State University President Kevin Satterlee, he seemed to soothe Nate by promising that any diversity program on his campus was funded by voluntary fees rather than tuition. the state or students.
As he got to University of Idaho President Scott Green, Nate took issue with an office of equity and diversity that he says is ‘committed to social justice advocacy’ , as well as the Director of Engineering Diversity for the College of Engineering. Green interrupted him with a 26-page investigative report from the Hawley Troxell law firm, showing that Nate and his allies at the Idaho Freedom Foundation had engaged in a “false narrative.”
Nate may be an outlier on the budget committee. But he wields great influence in the Idaho House, which for two consecutive years has followed his lead in rejecting the higher education budget. Last year, he cut not just $1.5 million from BSU, but $500,000 each from Unemployment Insurance and ISU over allegations of indoctrination of social diversity on campus.
But this high-profile, if not effective, nemesis of Idaho’s four-year college and universities is not a disinterested party. Nate teaches economics at Brigham Young University-Idaho, owned by the Mormon Church.
It wouldn’t make a difference whether his paychecks came from Northwest Nazarene University or the College of Idaho. The fact is that private schools to some extent compete with public higher education institutions. And Nate is on the private side of the equation.
Private and public schools compete for students. In today’s environment of tight state budgeting and a declining rate of Idaho high school graduates continuing their education, tuition revenue is just as important to a public school as it is to a private institution. Tuition covers about half the cost of classroom instruction at colleges and universities in Idaho. When it comes to ancillary services, tuition is even more essential.
They compete for talent. Because Idaho’s compensation package has not kept pace, teacher and staff turnover is increasing in public schools. If a legislator not only helps cut state funding, but continues to undermine programs that promote diversity in hiring, how can that not further hamper a public institution’s ability to recruit and retain quality faculty and staff?
No college or university, public or private, can survive without the generous contributions of a limited group of donors. If a legislator generates negative headlines in a legislative committee room, could that turn off the tap?
Nate can say he does the IFF bidding here. He focused on social diversity and allegations of indoctrination in Idaho’s institutions of higher education — as well as its public schools. And Nate obviously cherishes his near-pristine 99% ranking on the IFF’s Freedom Index.
But why aren’t his superiors at BYU-Idaho publicly embarrassed by what Nate is doing in Boise?
Or do they encourage it privately?
If Nate continues to sabotage higher education budgets later this spring, you’ll have your answer. —MT
Statesman editorials are the unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Idaho Statesman Editorial Board. Board members are Opinion Editor Scott McIntosh, Opinion Writer Bryan Clark, Editor-in-Chief Chadd Cripe, Newsroom Editors Dana Oland and Jim Keyser, and members of the JJ Saldaña and Christy Perry community. McIntosh teaches a course at Boise State University.