Parents, citizens criticize school district's IB program

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COEUR d'ALENE - The International Baccalaureate program came under fire at the Coeur d'Alene district's school board meeting Monday.

Trustees heard from 10 individuals, a mix of parents and concerned citizens, who criticized the advanced learning program, claiming it is part of a United Nations agenda to promote global citizenship and a threat to the nation's sovereignty and the rights of its citizens.

Duncan Koler, a parent who recently removed his children from district schools because of the IB program, requested that a discussion about the issue be placed on the school board agenda for next month, along with a public hearing.

Koler accused district administrators of failing to disclose the nature and purpose of IB to parents and stakeholders when it was promoting initiation of the program several years ago.

"I think something was hidden from that committee," Koler said.

In December 2008, a community-based financial advisory panel advised the district it should completely phase out IB because of the cost. The programs were offered at Lake City High School and Coeur d'Alene High School from 2006 until last year when the board discontinued it at CHS.

Hayden Meadows Elementary School has been working toward becoming a Primary Years Programme school. PYP is the K-5 program offered by the IB organization.

No schools other than Lake City and Hayden Meadows are participating at this time.

Fernan Elementary had begun the process, but has since decided not to become a PYP school.

The IB organization's literature strongly disputes claims that it is a pilot program for the UN or UNESCO, or that its intent is to create a global education system.

It has received funding from the United Nations Education Service and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and from some governments to pay for programs in their state schools.

Founded in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1968 as a nonprofit educational foundation, the IBO claims its original purpose was "to facilitate the international mobility of students preparing for university by providing schools with a curriculum and diploma recognized by universities around the world." The group claims that it, along with approximately 400 other organizations, is part of the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), and that "this relationship with the U.N. and its agencies does not extend to curriculum development or assessments."

Kohler's wife, Aileen, presented information she said was part of the IB World conference:

"They want to find time in the day - which we all know the kids need to be learning English and grammar and math and the things they need to succeed in life. They want to make time in the day for Malaria Day, World Refugee Day, International Day of Peace, World Food Day, International Day for Eradication of Poverty, International Day of Tolerance, World Aids Day, Human Rights Day."

Some who spoke said students are no longer learning U.S. history or civics.

"We are indeed teaching, and in a very prideful way, about our great country many, many times in a student's education," responded Superintendent Hazel Bauman. "I believe that the curriculum in the Coeur d'Alene School District is extremely patriotic, extremely focused on America and America's strengths."

Parent Mary Jo Finney said teachers are too busy to teach cursive and print writing to students.

"These students are not taught to correctly hold a pencil or write their letters, but they can say the Pledge of Allegiance, count to 10 and sing songs in Spanish," Finney said. "I am not against Spanish. I'm against trading basic English education time to accomplish this goal."

Finney said this was a "glaring example of misappropriated teaching as a direct result of PYP/IB education."

"We have many people who have differences of opinions and what they would like their children to be learning and not learning, and we do encourage parent involvement in our schools," said board chair Edie Brooks at the end of public testimony. "We are a district of school choice, so if a school is teaching something you don't want them to be taught, you can go to a different school meaning you don't have to go to PYP school."

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