BOISE – Idaho schoolteachers are coming out in force behind the candidacy of retired Boise school superintendent Stan Olson for state superintendent of schools, against incumbent Superintendent Tom Luna.
At a rally on the state Capitol steps Friday, more than 100 teachers from 75 school districts around the state gathered to kick off an independent campaign for Olson, announcing that an Idaho Education Association survey of its 13,000-plus members found that nearly eight in 10 teachers back Olson and less than 5 percent plan to vote for Luna.
Teachers at the rally said they’re concerned about Idaho’s historic cuts in public school funding, which are hitting classrooms this fall.
Camille Wells, campaign manager of Tom Luna’s re-election campaign, dismissed the rally as representing only the teachers union.
“It’s no surprise that union leaders are supporting the Democrat candidate,” she said. “Because Superintendent Luna has focused on students and resources in the classroom, he has strong support from teachers who are currently working hard in the classroom. The union’s priorities are clearly different and do not reflect the opinion of most teachers.”
Sherri Wood, IEA president, said, “Idaho educators are outraged that Tom Luna presided over the first-ever cuts to our public schools. They happened because our children and our schools lack an advocate in the state superintendent’s office.”
Rally participants decried rising class sizes, higher fees for families, shrinking school bus routes, funding cuts for books and classroom supplies, and shortened school years.
“Unfortunately, it’s the students who are taking the greatest hit,” said Josh Noteboom, head of the Kuna Education Association. In his district, “Our class sizes are growing to numbers of nearly 40.”
Andrew Rath, head of the Boise Education Association, said 83 percent of Boise teachers already have decided to back Olson, their former boss.
Candy Turner, a first-grade teacher at Priest River Elementary School who participated in the rally, said: “I believe in public education, and I feel that kids in Priest River have been neglected through the cuts that have come down. We need to educate these children, so that they can compete in the nation and in the world.”
Luna, a Republican, is seeking a second four-year term. It’s Olson’s first run for elective office.