Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Update: Idaho Schools Board: FOX News Gets Story Wrong

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 5:27 PM

Update: Wednesday, Sep. 21, 5 p.m.

Boise Weekly contacted FOX News. They maintain that they sent an email and were told that nobody would comment for the story.

BW also followed up with Mark Browning of the Idaho State Board of Education, who said that FOX News emailed the Idaho State Charter School Commission, not the SBOE.

"We reaffirmed the revocation of the charter by the commission based on financial insolvency," said Browning. "I still think their headline of their story was misleading."

Original Post: Sep. 21
The Idaho State Board of Education alleges that a Sept. 15 story on the Nampa Classical Academy published by FOX News is incorrect. The charter school started by Isaac Moffett was founded in 2009, and its charter was revoked a year later.

According to the FOX News article and accompanying video, which sports Moffett walking through an empty lot where his school once stood, the school was shut down for using the Bible and other religious texts as part of the curriculum.

'This used to be our campus,' he said. 'This is where the classrooms were. Everything was right here.'

That was last year. This year it's all gone, and all because Moffett and his fellow teachers used the Bible and other 'religious texts' in their classrooms.

That same day, the Idaho State Board of Education tweeted this:


"No one from the Idaho Board of Education would comment citing the pending litigation...," says the FOX News article.

Not so, says the SBOE.

Mark Browning, the board's communications officer, said they tried to contact the FOX News reporter with phone calls and emails, but without luck.

The Idaho Charter Schools Commission issued NCA's charter, and also made the call to revoke it. Under the law that establishes charter schools in Idaho, Moffett could and did appeal the revocation up the line, in this case, landing in the laps of the SBOE. They upheld the revocation, and according to Browning, it was based solely on financial concerns, echoed by both the commission and the state board.

"They were spending public money and they weren't accountable for it," Browning told Boise Weekly. "They couldn't produce the same number twice for how much money they were behind."

The FOX article makes no mention of financial troubles. Instead, the article adheres strictly to Moffett's claim that the school is gone because they taught the Bible. This, without mentioning the side of the state board, nor the financial problems the Charter Schools Commission had with NCA.

"It's a shocking set of circumstances that has one of the most conservative states in the country defending one of the most liberal views of the Constitutional separation between church and state," states the article.

The article mentions that Moffett is suing the board over the revocation of the charter. His lawyer is David Cortman of the Alliance Defense Fund, a group that defends so-called "Christian" causes

"One of our claims in the case is, the closing down of the school, under the alleged guise of financial reasons, is a reaction to the teaching of religious books," said Cortman.

Article IX, Section 6 of the Idaho Constitution states: "No sectarian or religious tenets or doctrines shall ever be taught in the public schools..." But Cortman and Moffett believe this was never meant to apply to the Bible.

According to Cortland, the board added a rule banning the Bible from classrooms three weeks before NCA was to open, on the heels of a memorandum from the Attorney General's Ooffice. In 2009 the AG's office advised that use of the Bible would violate the State Constitution. The SBOE, according to Cortman, is avoiding the issue of religious texts in classrooms.

"They refuse to acknowledge the statewide ban of religious texts... They're swatting at gnats while they're avoiding the 800-pound gorilla in the room," said Cortman.

As for now, Moffett's case was dismissed by a Federal District Court, and after an appeal, a 9th Circuit judge offered a concurring opinion.

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