Idaho AG’s office rebukes Nampa charter school

From the Idaho Press-Tribune

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Attorney General’s office has told Nampa Classical Academy officials the state won’t back down from pursuing information about the charter school’s possible use of the Bible and other religious texts.

The academy is defying an order from the Idaho Public Charter School Commission to turn over the data. An Arizona-based religious liberty group that is defending the school threatened in a Wednesday letter to sue the commission if it continues to seek the information.

The Alliance Defense Fund said the school doesn’t have to hand over anything because of a federal lawsuit it filed in September against the state concerning the school’s plan to use the Bible.

The group said in the Wednesday letter that it is considering a second lawsuit against the state to determine whether the school is operating within the boundaries of state law.

But deputy attorney general Mike Gilmore told school officials in an e-mail sent Friday that the commission and its program manager, Tamara Baysinger, will continue to seek the information from the school.

“Filing suit in federal court is not a ‘Get Out (of) Jail Free’ card that exempts NCA from oversight for expenditure of tax dollars and from conducting its educational mission in accordance with state law,” Gilmore wrote in the e-mail, which was obtained by the Idaho Press-Tribune.

Charter Commission chairman Bill Goesling also had strong words for school officials, saying that the usage of religious texts would likely lead to the revocation of the school’s charter.

“If they want to use religious texts they need to be a private school,” he said. “Public funds are not available for that.”

Nampa Classical Academy acting board chairman Mike Moffett said he didn’t know if or when the school would begin using religious texts.

The school drew attention last summer when school officials said they planned to use the Bible as a primary source of teaching material, but not to teach religion. The commission told the academy it couldn’t use the Bible as an instructional text.

That led to the lawsuit filed by the Alliance Defense Fund, which argues the school has a right to use religious texts as a part of its curriculum.

The school has since denied the commission a public records request and visit to its southwest Idaho campus.

Commissioners have meanwhile identified several areas of noncompliance with state rules for charter schools and voted to send the academy notices of defect — the first step in a lengthy process that could result in closure.

In its letter to the commission on Wednesday, the Alliance Defense Fund said the commission’s reprimands of the school were “retaliation” for the first lawsuit.

From the Idaho Press-Tribune

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