Posts tagged: Tom Luna
Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The eight-year, $180 million pact with Hewlett-Packard Co. for laptops required under public schools chief Tom Luna's education overhaul is dividing Idaho's Republican lawmakers. Rep. Lynn Luker of Boise said Friday during a meeting inside the Capitol the price was “double pretty much what we anticipated.” Sen. John Goedde of Coeur d'Alene countered it's only 10 percent above estimates. Who's right? In 2011, Luna estimated the five-year cost at $70.8 million, or $14.6 million annually. For the first five years of the actual H-P contract, the cost is $82 million, about 16 percent higher, conceded Luna spokeswoman Melissa McGrath. And over eight years, the average annual cost runs $22.5 million, well over Luna's estimate when calculated yearly. Voters weigh in on the computers and Luna's additional education changes Nov. 6.
The latest TV campaign commercial from opponents of Idaho's school reform propositions focuses on the number of Idaho teachers who have left the profession since the laws passed in 2011. “Since the Legislature passed Props 1, 2 and 3, over 1,800 Idaho teachers have left teaching,” the ad says. That claim is based on data compiled by the state Department of Education. The department's data shows that 1,884 certificated Idaho teachers left the profession of teaching in the 2011-2012 school year, a number that rose sharply from the 1,276 who left in the 2010-2011 year. Both those figures were way up from the 2009-2010 school year, in which the data show 716 Idaho teachers left the profession, a figure that at that point had been relatively stable for three years.
That means the ad's claim is correct - if anything, it understates the figures. The laws passed during the 2011 legislative session; that was the 2010-2011 school year. So, depending on when in the year the teachers departed, it's possible that as many as 3,160 Idaho school teachers have left the profession since the reform laws passed. Read my full ad watch story here at spokesman.com.
The AP reports that with the $180 million contract now signed for laptop computers for Idaho's high schools, lawmakers are suffering from sticker shock. In 2011, when lawmakers were considering the laptop plan, chief proponent and state schools Supt. Tom Luna and his staff estimated the cost for five years at $60.8 million. When costs for improving the wireless infrastructure are added to the equation, staff pegged the total five-year price tag at $70.8 million. Now, it's $180 million over eight years. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Todd Dvorak.
Here's the answer from state Department of Education spokeswoman Melissa McGrath as to how soon the $14.2 million “buyout” clause kicks in in the state's $180 million laptop contract, requiring the state to pay the contractor if it cancels the contract: “The buyout would not kick in until the state begins incurring costs. The state does not plan to do so until after Nov. 6. Right now, the state is in the process of working with HP and HP’s partners to develop a project plan based on the contract that was signed Tuesday. This will be done between 30-60 days from now, per the contract.”
Also, it sounds like I'm not going to get the contract today. The SDE says their lawyers are still reviewing it before releasing it under the Idaho Public Records Law. “I would hope that you're going to get it tomorrow,” McGrath said.
I've heard a lot of questions today about the numbers behind the $180 million contract Idaho signed yesterday with Hewlett-Packard and partners to supply laptops to every Idaho high school student and teacher for the next eight years, under the “Students Come First” reform laws - the ones that are up for a possible repeal in the Nov. 6 election. Specifically, the state Department of Education said the contract equates to $249.77 per student or teacher per year for just the laptops, maintenance, security and tech support, or $292.77 if the costs of wireless infrastructure and professional development are added in.
According to the state's RFP for this project, the state estimated that 6,551 teachers and administrators would get laptops the first year, and it estimated the number of students, after a three-year phase-in, at 83,825. That's a total of 90,376 laptops. If you divide $180 million by 90,376, it comes out to $1,992 per laptop, not $250. However, the department specifically said it was paying that amount per laptop PER YEAR of the eight-year contract. So, multiply 90,372 laptops by eight years, and you get 723,008. Divide that number into $180 million, and the result is $249.
These may not be the exact numbers in the contract, as they're from the RFP as issued last spring; I have requested a copy of the contract under the Idaho Public Records Law. When I receive it, I will post it here.
Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on how today, two weeks before the November election, in which Idaho voters could cancel the whole program, the state of Idaho signed a $180 million, eight-year contract with Hewlett-Packard to supply laptop computers to every Idaho high school student. If voters turn thumbs down on Proposition 3 in two weeks, the contract will be canceled.
But Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, author of the law that's being tested in Proposition 3, said, “This train has left the station when it comes to transforming our schools and the 21st century learning opportunity. We'll see what happens on election day, but it's not going to stop the transformation that's happening.” Mike Lanza, chairman of the Vote No on Props 1,2,3 campaign, said, “I think that the outcome of the election will determine whether anything goes forward.”
Gov. Butch Otter called this a “big day,” announcing that Hewlett-Packard Corp. has been named the successful bidder to supply laptop computers to Idaho high school students. “It's a proud moment for me,” Otter said, “that we had an Idaho company that was the successful bidder and that will lead us into that 21st Century classroom.”
Three Hewlett-Packard laptop computers are lined up next to a stack of battered textbooks, binders and a calculator today in a conference room at Hewlett-Packard Corp., where Gov. Butch Otter and state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna are gathered along with dignitaries for the announcement of a “major partnership between HP and the State of Idaho:” HP has been selected as the vendor for student laptops under the “Students Come First” technology program.
On the big screen behind the laptops is the logo for Students Come First, Luna's reform program that calls for supplying every Idaho high school student and teacher with a laptop computer. The state has been in the final stages of negotiating an eight-year, $100 million-plus contract to supply the laptops.
A shadowy group that raised and spent more than $200,000 in anonymous contributions to fund statewide TV ads in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the school reform referenda, issued a defiant news release today headed, “Founders: 'We won't back down,'” asserting that it'll resume its activities to “talk to voters about education reform and make sure they understand the education issues on Idaho's ballot” in the final two weeks before the election - despite a legal dispute with the Idaho Secretary of State over the legality of the group not disclosing its contributors.
The group also distributed an op-ed piece to Idaho newspapers today, asserting that it was formed because “for too long, Idaho parents have been left on the sidelines of the political debate over education,” because organizations represent school administrators, school board members and teachers, but “the most important voices in this process are often lost or outright ignored - there are too few groups advocating for the rights of parents with school-age children.” That overlooks the Idaho PTA, a statewide organization with thousands of members.
According to its website, “Idaho PTA is the largest parent organization in the state” and is “an organization dedicated to the welfare of children and youth.” At the Idaho PTA's annual convention in April, keynote speakers included state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, discussing the school reform measures, and national PTA President-Elect Otha Thornton. The Idaho PTA's legislative priorities this year were education funding, parent involvement and responsibility, endowment land management for the benefit of schools, and promoting child nutrition, health and safety. That group hasn't taken a position for or against the reform measures, but has been urging its members to research the measures and cast their votes accordingly.
John Foster, co-founder of Education Voters of Idaho, and former longtime Idaho state Rep. Debbie Field, R-Boise, who's also been the longtime campaign manager for Gov. Butch Otter, say in the op-ed that their group suffered “attacks,” showing “just how dangerous a powerful group of motivated parents will be to a politicized system in desperate need of improvement and change.” Foster said the group's statewide TV commercial wasn't pulled, but completed its two- to three-week run; the group then suspended all its activities, but now will restart all of them, despite the legal dispute with the state. “A decision about further television advertising hasn't been made yet,” Foster said. You can read the op-ed piece here.
The latest TV campaign commercial from opponents of the education reform propositions on Idaho's November ballot focuses on Proposition 2, the teacher merit-pay measure, suggesting that Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna wants to “treat children like widgets,” a claim he disputes. The measure sets up a new merit-pay bonus system for Idaho teachers, allowing teachers to earn bonuses if their entire school shows growth in student test scores on the Idaho Standards Achievement Test. The law also allows bonuses for other student-achievement measures set by individual school districts, and next year, would cover additional bonuses for teachers who take leadership roles or hold hard-to-fill positions. You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Here's a link to the full 79-page RFP, with attachments, for Idaho's “Students Come First” laptop computer contract, obtained by The Spokesman-Review under Idaho's public records law. The eight-year contract to provide and maintain laptop computers for every Idaho high school student and teacher, along with setting up and maintaining wireless networks in every Idaho high school, is worth more than $100 million; it would be renewable for up to 16 years. After the state didn't get competitive bids in response to the Request for Proposals in June, it began negotiating with potential providers; it's now negotiating with up to half a dozen. State Purchasing Director Bill Burns said the RFP still is “the basis for every negotiation.” Essentially, companies are being asked indivdually how they can provide what's in it or the closest they can get to what's in it.
The process has dragged out well beyond original timeframes, which envisioned the first batch of laptops in the hands of teachers and principals this month; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
The first round of more than 6,000 laptop computers, one for every high school teacher and administrator, was supposed to be out in Idaho's schools this month under the “Students Come First” school reform plan, but holdups in finding a suitable vendor have pushed that way back. After canceling a bidding process in June for lack of competitive bids, the state is now negotiating with up to a half-dozen potential providers of the computers, with hopes of picking one in the coming weeks and getting them out in the second semester.
At stake is an eight-year contract worth more than $100 million, under which the provider would supply and maintain laptops for every Idaho high school student, provide technical support, and set up and maintain wireless networks in the Idaho schools. “It's the whole ball of wax,” said Idaho Division of Purchasing Director Bill Burns. “It's a pretty big contract.”
The state has budgeted $2.56 million for the first round of laptops this year, an average of $391 apiece. But the bidder will set the price, and it's unclear what will happen if the bid comes in higher than that. Meanwhile, a clause in the contract will state that the whole thing goes away if voters repeal the program on Nov. 6; you can read my full story here at spokesman.com.
Last night's public forum on the school reform ballot measures drew a near-capacity crowd of 350 at Centennial High School, the Idaho Statesman reports; you can read their full report here.
Tonight, the League of Women Voters, Transform Idaho and the AAUW are sponsoring an educational panel discussion on Idaho's school reform referenda; the forum, which is free and open to the public, will be at Centennial High School from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. “The objective is to clarify the referendums and the impact of the resulting vote on Idaho's educational system,” the groups said in a news release announcing the event.
The panel will include Ken Burgess, partner at Veritas Advisors and campaign manager of the Yes4Idaho campaign, and Jason Hancock, deputy chief of staff to Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna, representing the “yes” side; and Mike Lanza, chair of the “Vote No on Props 1,2,3” campaign, and Cindy Wilson, government teacher at Centennial High, representing the “no” side. Current perspective on how the laws are working in the Boise and Meridian school districts will be provided by Don Coberly, Boise schools superintendent; A.J. Balukoff, Boise school board president; Eric Exline, Meridian School District community relations director; and Anne Ritter, vice chair of the Meridian School Board.
Jim Weatherby, emeritus professor at BSU, will moderate. Those attending are encouraged to arrive by 6:15 p.m.; Centennial High School is located at Cloverdale and McMillan roads in Boise.
Mike Lanza, chairman of the “Vote No on Props 1,2,3” campaign, asked why the National Education Association gave $1.06 million to the campaign against the school-reform measures, said, “Because they're an organization of teachers and they support their subsidiary organizations around the country. Their membership helps decide these things, what they want to support. They, I think, recognize that what's going on in Idaho is similar to what's happening in other states, and that frankly these are key education questions about how our schools are going to run for many years to come.” He said, “We appreciate the fact that there are teachers outside of Idaho who support what we're doing as well.”
As for the pro-reform campaign's latest TV ad, which uses an edited 2009 video clip to suggest that the reason the NEA is backing repeal of Idaho's reform laws is to flex the muscles of union power, Lanza said, “The other side has been wanting to portray this from the get-go as union vs. Tom Luna. But I think they're dodging a mathematical reality that we would not be talking about that, and it would not be on the ballot, if it wasn't for the fact that there's widespread opposition to these laws beyond teachers. We got 74,000 signatures.” The Idaho Education Association, Idaho's teachers union, has roughly 13,000 members.
The “No” campaign's most recent campaign finance report showed the group has raised $1.4 million and spent $1.3 million, with the largest chunk of its fundraising, $1.06 million, coming from the National Education Association, $280,000 from the Idaho Education Association and the rest from hundreds of small donations from individuals across the state.
The “Yes” campaign's report showed it's raised $164,858 and spent $112,679; the biggest contributions were $50,000 from Melaleuca and $15,000 from Hagadone Hospitality, with other big givers including the Idaho Prosperity Fund at $20,500 and the Idaho Republican Party and Lorna Finman at $10,000 each. In addition, Parents for Education Reform reported raising and spending $200,350 from undisclosed donors; and the Idaho Federation of Republican Women reported raising and spending $115,000, $110,000 of that from Melaleuca.
Idaho Secretary of State Ben Ysursa says he's likely to demand that a group helping finance the campaign to save Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's education reforms reveal the names of its contributors, the AP reports. Education Voters of Idaho collected at least $200,000 to promote Luna's reforms ahead of the Nov. 6 referendum, but says it doesn't have to disclose donors because it's a nonprofit organization under federal tax law. On Monday, Ysursa said the group has yet to provide a legal explanation for why it's not a political action committee required by Idaho's 1974 “Sunshine laws” to disclose donors ahead of the election. “It eviscerates the law if we don't get disclosure,” Ysursa told the Associated Press. “We personally do not believe there's a doubt here.”
Absent a response from the group, Ysursa said he'll seek “legal remedies” that could include a request for a court order for it to reveal its donors. He expects to act this week. Susan Buxton, Education Voters of Idaho's attorney, didn't return a call seeking comment Monday. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.
Ken Burgess, spokesman for Yes for Idaho Education, is defending his group's use of an edited clip from a July 2009 speech by a retiring NEA official in a campaign commercial that says it shows “the national teachers union as they explain why the union is spending millions to defeat education reform like Props 1, 2, and 3 here in Idaho.” “The purpose of that ad is to demonstrate to Idahoans really what and who the NEA is all about,” Burgess said. “What's most important to them really is just being able to have members.”
Asked how the 2009 clip shows why the NEA is spending big on the Idaho campaign in 2012, Burgess said, “Oh, they've engaged in these types of efforts in many states around the country where education reform has been attempted. It's nothing new for Idaho, it's nothing new for this year. … It's stuff that they have done all along, because they basically oppose reform of the status quo.”
Burgess said an earlier ad in favor of Props 1, 2 and 3 that was being run by a group coordinated by lobbyist and political activist John Foster is no longer running, but he promised “a very aggressive effort on our part … all the way through Nov. 6” to push for support for the measures, possibly including additional ads. The new TV commercial is running across southern Idaho, and a radio version is running statewide.
The latest campaign commercial in the school reform fight comes from “Yes for Idaho Education,” the group leading the campaign in favor of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, and features an edited clip from a July 2009 retirement speech by then-National Education Association general counsel Bob Chanin, talking about why he believed the NEA had become an effective advocate during the 41 years he'd been with the group. That's not what the ad says the clip is about, however.
“Listen to the national teachers union as they explain why the union is spending millions to defeat education reform like Props 1, 2 and 3 in Idaho,” the ad states. It then plays this edited clip from Chanin's speech: “It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children, and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. It's because we have power.” The narrator then says, “Don't let the union stop education reform in Idaho - vote yes on Props 1, 2 and 3.”
However, not only is the statement not about why the NEA is backing the campaign against the reforms - which campaign finance reports show it's doing to the tune of $1.07 million so far - the clip is of statements made more than two years before Idaho's reform laws even passed. The same cropped video clip has been used repeatedly over the past three years to try to discredit the NEA, notably in February of 2011 by Sean Hannity on Fox News and by conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh, both of whom used the clip to suggest that the national teachers union doesn't care about children; and in a March 2011 anti-union ad from Crossroads GPS and Karl Rove that prompted criticisms both from the NEA and the conservative Cato Institute; Talking Points Memo reported here on that dustup.
Yes for Idaho Education has not yet responded to reporters' inquiries about its new ad.
A new statewide poll out sponsored by the Idaho Statesman newspaper shows Idahoans deeply divided over the school reform referenda measures on the November ballot, Propositions 1, 2 and 3. The poll of 625 likely voters, conducted last week and released over the weekend, showed these results:
Prop 1: 42 percent against, 38 percent in favor, 20 percent undecided
Prop 2: 42 percent in favor, 39 percent against, 19 percent undecided
Prop 3: 47 percent against, 40 percent in favor, 13 percent undecided
Plus, when asked if the propositions, if approved by voters, will improve the quality of education in Idaho public schools, 44 percent said no, 39 percent yes, and 17 percent were undecided. You can read a full report here in the Statesman.
Mason-Dixon Polling & Research of Washington, D.C. conducted the poll for the Statesman; pollster Brad Coker told Statesman reporter Dan Popkey that the high number of undecided voters is likely to end up breaking 3-to-1 or 4-to-1 against the measures. “The fact that all the results are close is misleading,” Coker told the Statesman. “The truth is that all three face a stiff uphill battle. All things being equal, they are likely to lose by margins much larger than what these numbers show.”
This is the first independent poll conducted and released on Idaho's hottest election-season issue this year.
Idaho Statesman reporter Dan Popkey reports today that eastern Idaho millionaire and GOP activist Frank VanderSloot is planning to sharply up his spending in support of Propositions 1, 2 and 3, the school reform referenda, now that a legal dispute over disclosure of donors is holding up a big batch of anonymously raised funds intended for the campaign. VanderSloot, CEO of Melaleuca, already has spent more than $200,000 on behalf of the “yes” campaign backing the measures, including $50,000 donated to Yes for Idaho Education, $110,000 to the Idaho Federation of Republican Women for radio ads, and $20,000 a week for the last several weeks for his own separately funded full-page ads in newspapers across the state.
VanderSloot told Popkey that campaign finance reports showing opponents of the measures have raised $1.3 million from teachers unions - along with undisclosed internal polling showing the measures trailing - prompted him to dig deeper himself; you can read Popkey's full report here. VanderSloot also told both Popkey and the Idaho Falls Post Register that he never donated to the anonymous fund.
Meanwhile, VanderSloot also told Popkey that despite his backing of the reform plan, he's “not very enamored with Prop 3,” the measure that requires the state to provide every high school student with a laptop computer and mandates a new focus on online learning. “I never have been,” VanderSloot said, telling Popkey he's more concerned about the other two measures, which roll back teachers' collective bargaining rights and impose a new merit-pay bonus system. You can read Popkey's full post on that here.