Former state Rep. Bob Forrey, who for years has claimed the state’s largest teachers union is Marxist, was named to a top job at the state Department of Education this week by new Superintendent Anne Fox.
Forrey on Thursday repeated his claim that the policy manuals of the Idaho Education Association and its parent organization include Marxist principles. “They have a Marxist philosophy,” he said.
He points to a section saying that taxes should be levied on corporations based on their ability to pay to satisfy the needs of education.
Forrey, 63, said that sounds a lot like communist philosopher Karl Marx’s dictum: “From each according to their ability, to each according to their need.”
Idaho Education Association executive director Jim Shackleford disputes that.
“Of course not,” he said Thursday of Forrey’s description. “This is one of the most democratically run organizations in the world.”
“I don’t think it’s productive to try to begin an administration by calling people names that don’t relate to who they are,” Shackleford said. “We would encourage anyone in the political scene to participate with us in a discussion of the issues rather than upon what they believe somebody else somewhere may have said about us.”
Fox said Forrey’s appointment as a research analyst sends an important message to the conservatives who worked hard on her campaign. “They have a voice. It shows that they’re represented.”
“The greatest gift he has is his knowledge of so many of the issues,” she said.
Forrey is likely to make Fox’s job harder, said House Speaker Mike Simpson, R-Blackfoot. “He has a reputation among the teaching profession as being opposed to public schools,” Simpson said. “That perception, right or wrong, is going to be something he or she (Fox) will have to work on very hard. Right now, she has to build bridges to the education community. I hope the education establishment will give him and her a chance.”
Despite his reputation, Simpson said, Forrey has a winning and gentlemanly manner.
In the mid-1980s, Forrey was the leader of a group of lawmakers harshly critical of the IEA’s push for bigger education budgets, better teacher pay and increased teacher autonomy.
Forrey said he has been falsely portrayed as controversial and combative. “I don’t think I picked the fights,” Forrey said. “I stood for certain things and generally it was the teachers union that disagreed.”
In addition to circulating books with titles like: “NEA: Propaganda Front of the Radical Left,” and “NEA: Trojan Horse in American Education,” Forrey traveled as far as South America to speak at anti-communist seminars sponsored by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. His topic was the Marxist philosophy of the National Education Association.
In 1986, Forrey was defeated in the Republican primary election by a less conservative member of his own party whose campaign was financed by the IEA.
Despite that history and Forrey’s remarks, every effort will be made to get along with Forrey, Shackleford said.
“We have a responsibility to try to work with the state superintendent and her representatives,” Shackleford said. “I wasn’t in this position when he was in the Legislature. We’re going to give him every opportunity to get to know us and what we stand for.”
Forrey said Thursday that he will be paid $34,000 per year to be Fox’s research analyst at the Department of Education. He has a high school diploma, but no college degree. Forrey attended the Army command and general staff college and the industrial college of the armed forces.
He said his job is to stay in the background. “I really don’t want to be out front,” he said. “Maybe I’ll be able to bring some points to her attention that are from a different point of view.”
“I don’t have an agenda of my own,” Forrey said. “I hope she’ll accomplish exactly what she campaigned on … good curriculum, good discipline, patriotism, to do it using less resources. I just want her to be successful.”