Eye On Boise

Land board members mull proposal...

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on state schools Supt. Tom Luna's proposal for education funding unveiled to lawmakers today. Tapping into the state's public school endowment earnings reserve fund for more than $50 million, as Luna proposes, would require a vote of the state Land Board, of which Luna is a member. The other members - the governor, secretary of state, attorney general and state controller - all indicated today that they need more information before deciding. Luna gave them a heads-up about his proposal last night.

"It's balancing the near term with the long term, that's the question," said Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. "I have not made up my mind on it; I'm still looking at the pros and cons. But I do understand his position - he's looking under every rock he can to find money for schools, and that's his role as superintendent." Click below to read comments from the board's three other members.

From Gov. Butch Otter: "Superintendent Luna presented some interesting ideas for public school funding this week, and he deserves praise for that. His ideas deserve to be studied closely and carefully. At the same time, we must remember that both the Legislature and the Land Board have jurisdiction over endowment funds, and the constitutional process for exploring that option must be respected.  In addition, we don’t yet have a clear picture of how soon our economy – and revenue stream – will more fully recover."

From Attorney General Lawrence Wasden: Bob Cooper, Wasden's spokesman, said, "He thinks this is something the Land Board would need to sit down and talk through, whether the suggestion is consistent with their constitutional fiduciary duty not just to today's schoolchildren but to tomorrow's schoolchildren as well. It's something he thinks they really need to talk about."

From State Controller Donna Jones: " I understand the position that the superintendent is in, I recognize that he has two roles in this both as a fiduciary as a trustee on the Land Board, and as the chief education officer in the state of Idaho. My role is much more simple. Mine is all about the Land Board and the trust. ... When one proposes such ideas it's very important for the board to remember that the sacred trust of the endowment fund is not about solving short-term problems to the detriment of the long-term directive of the trust. Having not seen the proposal, I am not saying that the superintendent is doing that, but when I cast my vote, my vote will be as a fiduciary under the guidance of the long-term best interests of the trust. ... This is a very difficult request for the long term."

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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