The latest campaign commercial in the fight over whether to repeal Idaho's controversial school reform laws is running statewide, including in the Spokane-Coeur d'Alene market. John Foster, a lobbyist and political consultant who's behind the new “Parents for Education Reform” PAC that's running the ad, declined to identify its financial backers. “We'll file our disclosure reports at the appropriate time, but we're happy to receive enough support to get this ad off the ground, and hopefully do more,” Foster said. “This PAC is just one piece of a larger effort to spread the message of education reform in Idaho, and we'll be announcing more about that in the coming days. It's an effort that is not wholly about this campaign or this election season, it's bigger than that and will go beyond and past November.”
Foster, a former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, said he's enjoying working with Debbie Field, the PAC's chairwoman and Gov. Butch Otter's campaign manager, who also is a former GOP lawmaker and longtime GOP activist. “Debbie and I have been on opposite sides of the political fence before in campaign season, but we're on the same side in this issue, which is a bipartisan one,” Foster said. However, the three reform laws passed the Legislature without a single Democratic vote in favor of any of the three; Republicans were split on the measures.
On Proposition 1, which passed as SB 1108 regarding teacher contracts, every legislative Democrat opposed the bill along with 17 Republicans. On Proposition 2, which passed as SB 1110 regarding merit-pay bonuses, every legislative Democrat opposed the bill along with 21 Republicans. Proposition 3, which passed as SB 1184 on technology and funding, was opposed by every legislative Democrat and 21 legislative Republicans.
Foster declined to name other Democrats involved with the PAC. He said he's been in touch with the “Yes for Education” PAC that was formed as the main campaign organization pushing for support for the measures. His ad focuses on one fairly obscure piece of each of two of the laws: A requirement in the teacher-contract bill to include parent input in teacher evaluations; and funding for up to a year of college credit for some students under the technology law, which also funds laptop computers for all high school students and requires online classes. It also lauds the merit-pay bonus program.
“The overall goal of the ad is to engage voters, engage Idahoans, and tell them about these reforms and remind them that it's critical that if they want these reforms in place, they need to go vote in November,” Foster said.