Briana LeClaire was on a path to a career in law when she discovered politics instead. She has worked on education policy in a variety of venues including the Idaho Freedom Foundation, the Coalition of Idaho Charter School Families, a national school choice advocacy group and now a new association of Idaho private schools that is advocating for tax credits to fund private school scholarships in the state.

Briana LeClair

Age: 44 #politcalanimal is a feature of the TBR 5 Midterm Election issue. For an overview, see Miller.
Affiliations: Republican
Education: University of Idaho, BA in English
Occupation: Idaho Federation of Independent Schools, executive director
Vehicle: 2004 Chrysler Town & Country
Diet restrictions: N/A
Favorite TV show: Foyle’s War, currently

What moment led you to become politically aware and/or politically active?

An opportunity came up to serve an internship in Sen. Symms office; this would have been summer of ‘92. That was in Washington, D.C., and it was great. It was paid, back in the day when they did that… the main thing that I learned in Washington, D.C., is that there’s aspects of government in every part of our lives. And the other thing I learned is that there is a trade association for every possible constituency that exists. There’s an association of associations, right? And I guess, another seminal moment for me that summer was I read P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores. And I met the man who became my husband.

When I really started getting back involved was when my little kindergartner was in the first year that the Idaho Virtual Academy was offered in Idaho. Marilyn Howard was the Superintendent of Public Instruction and she decided that she really had it in for this school… I started writing letters to the editor and asked my friends to do the same. And then I started getting involved with the coalition of Idaho charter school families and things just snowballed from there.

When one particular elected official wanted to mess with my kid’s school — that’s not going to work. So, what can we do about it? And as it turns out there are a number of things you can do about it.

What/who were your influences?

Sen. Symms was a huge influence, that man loves freedom and doesn’t care who knows it.

My boss there [at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association in D.C.] was the indomitable, irreplaceable Ed Stimpson. He was an Idaho guy, he was a renaissance man. Also: P.J. O’Rourke, Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose and Big Trouble (J. Anthony Lukas)

Why do you STAY involved?

I think people like the idea of school choice, but the idea of freedom to educate makes people nervous and makes lawmakers nervous. What keeps me involved is actually pretty simple. I think that the way to get to a more educated populace in Idaho, which is an acknowledged problem… the way to get there is more freedom not more top-down regulations and mandates from either the State of Idaho or the federal Department of Education. We have many, many, many different kinds of private schools in Idaho, from Riverstone… to a school like the Ambrose School… getting the job done for kids. And right now there are more than 5,000 spots open in Idaho’s private schools. We’ve got these schools that are a proven excellent thing and they’ve got openings and meanwhile we’ve got families that want to go there… we could get more kids into these excellent schools.

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of Boise State University, the Center for Idaho History and Politics, or the School of Public Service.