Stan Olson, the Democratic challenger to GOP state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, is criticizing Luna’s move to do away with a standardized test on science as a graduation requirement in Idaho, a move approved yesterday by the state Board of Education. “Given the critical need in areas such as health care, high-tech, energy and agriculture there is no more important subject to a child’s development and their future opportunities than science,” Olson said. “By removing proficiency in science as a graduation requirement, Mr. Luna is not only selling our kids short, he’s endangering some of our economy’s most important employers.”
Olson said it’s not just yesterday’s move he objects to; he’s concerned that new science graduation requirements adopted by the state four years ago have languished, without leadership from Luna to get Idaho school districts ready to implement them. “The reality is that Mr. Luna focused his time on boondoggles such as performance pay initiatives or ‘Race to the Top’ or a number of other initiatives, and neglected the responsibility … that was before him, and more importantly before every school district in the state,” Olson said. “We’ve been talking for three or four years that districts needed support and consistent assistance from the state department and consistent resource assistance, to get ready for the deployment of those graduate requirements, and particularly what we were going to be doing in science.”
Olson is the just-retired superintendent of the Boise School District, where he served as superintendent from 2002 until June 30 of this year; it’s the second-largest school district in the state, with 25,000 students and a $200 million annual operating budget. He holds a doctorate in education from Western Michigan University, and started his education career as a high school teacher and coach in 1971, going on to serve in numerous administrative posts including district superintendent in Wyoming from 1997 to 2002. Olson, who is making his first run for office, is using the campaign slogan, “A real educator when we need one most!”
Luna, a businessman and former school board member, is Idaho’s first non-educator state superintendent of schools. He’s seeking a second term; his campaign slogan is “Measuring Success One Child at a Time.” Here are links to Luna’s campaign website and Olson’s campaign website.