BOISE - The two candidates to lead Idaho’s school system for the next four years clashed Tuesday night over everything from school funding to their own qualifications for the job, in a debate televised live statewide on Idaho Public Television.
“Idaho needs a real advocate for education,” incumbent Supt. Tom Luna declared. Luna, a Republican businessman and the first non-educator to head the state’s school sytem, said he went to the state Land Board for more money for schools “when everybody else threw up their hands,” and said, “I fought that battle and in many ways fought it alone, and we were successful in getting $22 million. … I’ll continue to turn over every rock, I’ll shake every tree.”
His challenger, Democrat Stan Olson, responded, “The problem with the rock turning … is that it’s all 11th-hour and 59th minute. My question is, Where were you three years ago and four years ago?”
Olson, the just-retired superintendent of the Boise School District, charged that “politics has trumped educational leadership” under Luna.
Luna said he’s helped funnel scarce resources into the classroom, and called for taxing online sales and adding more state tax collectors to raise more money for education.
The debate was the first of the “Idaho Debates,” a series of face-offs in Idaho’s major election races sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Idaho Press Club and broadcast on Idaho Public TV. On Thursday, candidates for secretary of state and lieutenant governor will debate, followed in the coming weeks by the candidates for U.S. Senate, Congress and governor.