In the early years of Idaho’s virtual charter schools, parents were told that such schools would allow instruction that was consistent with the spiritual perspectives of the parents. But it has become evident that this claim can only be met through extraordinary efforts by the parents. Since the virtual charter schools are an integral part of the public school system in Idaho, their programs and curricula are legally required by the Idaho Constitution (at Article IX, sections 5 and 6) to be free of any religious or spiritual materials.
The practical effect of enrollment in a virtual charter school program is to bring the public school district into the home of the student. But Idaho’s state constitution is clear that it is illegal for school districts to spend any funds or use any resources in connection with a program or curriculum that includes religious instruction or principles. This precludes any public schools from teaching information or providing curriculum that embraces the religious or spiritual perspectives of the parents unless those perspectives are at least neutral, if not antagonistic, to spiritual matters.
For parents for whom the spiritual training of their children is a significant factor in their decision to seek alternative methods of education, this sanitization must not be minimized. While supplemental materials can push back against this institutionalized bias, the mere fact that supplemental efforts are utilized will send a confusing message to the children. What is a young pupil to believe when, in the morning he is taught social studies without any reference to ethics or morality, but in the afternoon he is re-taught the same information from an alternative perspective? Even if the parents are clear in expressing their beliefs to the child, how can the child help but wonder why the expert author of the published textbook has a different view from that of his parents?
The answer is that he can’t. The parents in this scenario are inherently creating dangerous cracks in the foundation that they are laying for their child. Though the foundation may initially appear to be intact, the chances of a fracture and a rejection of the parent’s faith later in life are increased by this juggling of lessons.