Idaho Education Plans Up in the Air After Luna Laws Defeated

Although it was the Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna who has been getting most of the early heat about the failure of the Students Come First laws, many are now looking at Luna’s most stalwart backer, Governor Butch Otter, to see how the setback will shape Idaho education priorities going forward. Commenting on [...]

Although it was the Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna who has been getting most of the early heat about the failure of the Students Come First laws, many are now looking at Luna’s most stalwart backer, Governor Butch Otter, to see how the setback will shape Idaho education priorities going forward. Commenting on the defeat, Otter said that he accepted the results as a message from Idaho voters that the changes he was looking to implement weren’t where the public wanted their school system to go.

According to the Idaho Statesman, he added that the path forward is to make education reform a more cooperative venture, and his next step is to bring all education stakeholders to the table to develop the plan for Idaho schools — even if that means temporarily putting aside the issues that are sure to be most acrimonious and focusing on the areas where an agreement is possible.

Opponents of the laws welcomed the entreaty.

“No, no gloating,” said Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr. “This is for Idaho’s kids and Idaho’s teachers. We’re going to go forward with that and work with everybody and anybody that wants to work with us.”

Cyr said she’d be calling Luna to invite him to come to discussions about reform.

Luna declined requests for comment Wednesday, issuing only a statement: “I am as committed as anyone to finding a way to make this happen.”

Although Luna hasn’t spoken publicly, some supporters who have reached out to him since the Luna laws were defeated last week have gone public with their assessment of the Superintendent’s state of mind. Frank VanderSloot, who spent nearly $1.6 million in support of Propositions 1, 2, and 3 and who spoke to Luna this week, said that the Superintendent expressed regret for letting people down and was apologetic for not being able to get enough Idaho voters on board with his ambitious reform plans.

When asked if Luna made any indications about his future plans, or a possible resignation, VanderSloot said he knew nothing about Luna’s thoughts in that direction.

VanderSloot advises that reformers take it slower this time. The bills introduced by Luna in January 2011 became law in two months.

“The legislation was aggressive and tried to do too much, too fast,” VanderSloot said. “I think they need to take a step back and see what pieces of reform people can get behind. Take it a step at a time.”

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