BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The House on Tuesday rejected legislation to pay $1.1 billion to Idaho's K-12 teachers amid concerns about what is being taught in schools.
Lawmakers deadlocked 34-34 in a tie vote that means the bill fails to advance. The defeat means the bill must now go back to the Legislature's budget committee to be redone and then returning to the House for another vote. It's not clear how long that will take.
Opponents of the bill said they respect and support teachers, but the legislation needs to have language prohibiting teaching of some ideas.
Opponents specifically targeted critical race theory, which examines the way race and racism influences politics, culture and the law.
"Critical theory is political in nature, and it violates our Constitution, and how are we as a Legislature going to stop that violation of our Constitution?" Republican Rep. Priscilla Giddings asked her colleagues. "We have to do it with the budget, and we have to include intent language specifically saying critical theory will not be advocated for by our teachers or upon our teachers."
Opponents reiterated several times they want to add intent language to the bill, not cut the budget for teacher pay.
Last year, then-President Donald Trump cracked down on diversity training at federal agencies that employed critical race theory. Trump's memo came after the U.S. spent a summer reckoning over racial injustice in policing and other spheres of American life. The theme has been picked up in Idaho. Trump carried the state in November's presidential election with 64% of the vote.
Supporters of the bill said budget bills shouldn't involve intent language that dictates policy. Instead, such a bill involving education should originate in the House Education Committee.
Republican Rep. Ryan Kerby, who serves on that committee, said more than 18,000 teachers did a phenomenal job teaching during the coronavirus pandemic. He urged lawmakers to pass the bill.
"We need to tell the educators in Idaho that we appreciate them this year," Kerby said. "We need to say right now 'thank you.' "
He suggested coming back with a separate bill involving the concerns of some lawmakers, but passing the budget.
Republican Rep. Wendy Horman, who serves on the budget committee, said policy should be passed through other committees that she said would prohibit teaching discrimination. But that hasn't happened.
"The way we get to university is by fostering an atmosphere of inclusion and respect for all viewpoints," she said. "And if we can't get the policy passed, then I'm willing to put it in a budget that prohibits discrimination."
Democratic Rep. Chris Mathias said that every year about 1,000 trained educators in Idaho quit the profession or move out of state.
"The fact that we don't pay them, and that we have conversations like this every time it's time to pay them, exacerbates the situation," he said.
Democratic Rep. John McCrostie, who is a teacher, called into question the whole argument made by opponents of the bill.
"I don't have time to teach critical race theory. Are you kidding me? I have to just prepare my content for the next day," he said. "This whole discussion on critical race theory coming into the classrooms this year. That's nuts."