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School reform foes respond to Luna, say money should go to school districts

Mike Lanza, chairman of “Vote No on Propositions 1, 2, 3,” the group urging repeal of the “Students Come First” school reform laws in three ballot measures, had this response to state schools Supt. Tom Luna's question today on how opponents of the laws would manage the “disruption” to Idaho's public school funding that would occur if the measures are defeated in November:

“Consistent with what we've said all along, we want to see control of local schools returned to local school boards and educators. So the money that has been appropriated for public schools should rightly go to public schools, but without those strings attached. Our schools need those resources. They've been short-changed for too many years.”

The defeat of the three measures would leave the funds now tabbed for laptop computers, teacher merit-pay bonuses and other “Students Come First” reforms unallocated within the public school budget; if lawmakers took no further action, it would flow into Idaho's public education stabilization fund, a state savings account for schools, at the end of the school year. But when the Legislature convenes in January, it could redirect those funds through a supplemental appropriation, rather than just let them sit all year; if it sent the money out as discretionary funds to school districts, districts would decide how to spend it. Legislative budget analyst Paul Headlee, asked about the process, said, “They could do that. They could put it into salaries. They could even take it out of the public schools budget and put it somewhere else in the state budget.”

Said Lanza, “I do believe that the local school districts are best able to decide how to run their schools. And if the state allocated funds to them and allowed them decide how to spend it, I think they'd be a lot better off than with the handcuffs the Luna laws placed on them.”

Luna, when he unveiled his budget request for the state's schools for next year earlier today, said he thought schools would see a major disruption if the referenda are voted down and the reform laws overturned. “You have districts right now that are under contract to pay for technology that they will not be able to pay for,” he said. Luna said he thought opponents should have proposed alternatives or changes to the reform laws he championed, rather than attempting to repeal them at the ballot box. “They chose to go at this with a meat ax and create such a disruption to our schools,” he said.

Lanza said, “It sounds to me like Superintendent Luna is complaining that it's greatly inconvenient for him and his office that the people of Idaho have decided they want the final say on his laws. His problem seems to be with the democratic process. There are many of us in the state, as evidenced by how many signatures we collected in a short time, who think that Tom Luna is the one who has created this disruption in the schools and it's already under way, and that we're going to be better off once we repeal these laws.”


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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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