The agenda for Monday’s House Education Committee hearing was innocuous enough. It included a report from the State Board of Education presented by board President Kurt Liebich.

But critics are crying foul, saying Stanley Republican Dorothy Moon used the hearing to advance an agenda of her own by continuing to invoke the specter of critical race theory when questioning Liebich. They also believe Moon made false statements about seeing first-hand critical race theory curriculum being introduced to young students in Boise County.

Earlier in the hearing Liebich had discussed the national conversation of critical race theory. While he said there were some areas of the country where he didn’t like the direction of where education was heading, there was no indication of anything similar happening in Idaho.

“I absolutely understand the national debate but what happens is everybody’s watching the national debate, seeing those examples and then if they see one thing happening in Idaho, they just assume that we have this major systematic problem,” Liebich said. “It was one of the concerns I had with the Lt. Governor’s task force (to examine indoctrination in Idaho education) — there was this presumption that we were guilty.”

Critical race theory, primarily “an esoteric graduate school- or law school-level discipline,” according to an Idaho Ed News analysis, has been a “bogeyman” in far-right political circles as Time magazine reported. The conservative effort to discredit critical race theory is widespread as “at least 36 states have adopted or introduced laws or policies that restrict teaching about race and racism,” reported Tuesday.

In April, Idaho Gov. Brad Little signed House Bill 377 which restricts the use of critical race theory in schools and, last summer, Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin convened a Task Force to Examine Indoctrination in Idaho Education to explore the issue.

Concerns over student indoctrination also led the Legislature last year to reduce the higher education budget by $2.5 million “to remove state support for social justice programming at Boise State University, Idaho State University, and University of Idaho.”

Friday, during his budget presentation to lawmakers, University of Idaho President Scott Green labeled the efforts as “a false narrative created by conflict entrepreneurs.”

The higher education budget wasn’t the only casualty of critical race theory concerns.

The House last year also rejected a $6 million early childhood development grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which had support from the Trump White House, Gov. Little and both of Idaho’s Republican U.S. senators, Mike Crapo and Jim Risch, Idaho Ed News reported. The grant would have had the State Board of Education partner with the Idaho Association for Young Children “to ensure the grant is administered to meet the objectives identified” in a 2020 needs assessment, the Post Register reported. But some conservative lawmakers considered it to be pushing a liberal agenda and the House voted the funding down in March, the Idaho Capital Sun reported.

But on Monday, Moon used the committee hearing to again bring up the 2021 vote against the early childhood development grant.

“You say there is no critical race theory or there doesn’t seem to be an issue in Idaho,” Moon, who’s running for Secretary of State, told Liebich. “If you’re aware in any of the hearings on that program, that was defeated by the Legislature, it was laden with critical race theory curriculum for kids from infancy to pre-K. Is this something that you all are going to push again or will you do a more thorough investigation of any programs that you try to bring into the state with these $6 million in federal grant funds?”

In video from the hearing Rep. Julie Yamamoto, R-Caldwell, is seen vigorously shaking her head no as Moon made her claim the program was “laden with critical race theory curriculum.”

In his response, Liebich told Moon that the grant was designed to support local collaboratives that were community driven.

“I’m not aware that there was a specified curriculum that was associated with that. I don’t believe that was the case, but you can correct me if I’m wrong after the hearing,” he said. “But my understanding of that money was that it was going to flow to local communities so that they could develop local collaboratives that met the needs at the local level for those students. If there was a curricular aspect to it that included critical race theory concepts that would be news to me and I’d be concerned about it if that was the case.”

Moon asked for a chance to follow up and continued to assert that critical race theory is being taught to Idaho children.

“There obviously was,” Moon said. “I worked with one of those cohorts down in Boise County and I did see the curriculum that was being brought in and it was very much CRT. So I’m just saying in the future it would be wonderful if you could screen some of the ties to this grant money and what is being expected of our educators to put forth before these little kids because if you were to go back and look at the hearing you would see that there is a lot of CRT materials that were being provided to these school districts. So it is there. I guess that was more of a statement.”

After watching the exchange, Alicia Abbott, a field organizer for an anti-extremist group called the Idaho 97 Project, tweeted that Moon had made “dishonest & defamatory attacks” on the Idaho Association for Young Children and challenged the representative to prove that she’d worked with one of the “cohorts” in Boise County.

Abbott also tweeted out a copy of a public records request she’d sent to the house education committee secretary seeking “evidence of CRT curriculum she came across while working with a Boise County area school.” The request seeks records “including any calendar events, text messages, or emails” exchanged via Moon regarding the Idaho Association for Young Children, pre-K grant opportunities and Moon’s work in Boise County.