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Posts published in “Day: November 21, 2009”

A religious charter


This one looks just about ready to blow up.

The Nampa Classical Academy is an Idaho charter school, running grades 1-9, which emphasizes, to a great extent, a traditional "classical" education - they note, "very strong in phonics, classical literature, grammar, composition, mathematics, "modern" sciences, history, geography, and rhetorical analysis and writing."

It's an interesting approach, but one element of the style of rigorous education as it often was practiced, say, a century ago, runs into problems now: Teaching about religion. And NCA leaders have said explicitly that they intend to use the Bible and other religious books in their classrooms. Which might not necessarily be a problem, depending on how they're handled; but then again, might.

The Classical Academy has in the last few months become a big subject of controversy in Idaho, in part because the academy's stance seems not to have involved much compromise. The Idaho Charter Commission, which seems in most past cases to work alongside charters, has been asking for more information about the use of religious texts.

The Nampa Idaho Press-Tribune backgrounds, "The Alliance Defense Fund brought a lawsuit against the Charter Commission and state officials Sept. 1 in federal court on behalf of the charter school arguing for the school's right to use religious texts as part of its curriculum. The Wednesday letter from ADF says the Charter Commission's recent reprimands of the school are in direct "retaliation" for the lawsuit."

That Wednesday letter from the Alliance Defense Fund - which takes legal action on religious rights issues, and evidently is representing the school - said that the renewed inquiries are retaliation, and it will sue the commission if it continues to pursue its inquiries.

The state's response is that it has responsibilities to pursue whether or not someone files a lawsuit.

Not that the academy has been of one mind about all this. Since mid-October, seven board members have resigned, saying the school's direction (under Chair Mike Moffett) saying among other things "We believe there have been issues at the board level and with some of the leadership at NCA that conflict with the core values and will affect the success of NCA."

The commission's next step may be revocation of the charter school license, which could close the school since it would mean an end to public funding.

A bunch of hot-button culture war elements are beginning to line up into place. This could go national before long.