May 8, 2011 in Idaho

Eye on Boise: Teachers union finds Luna losing support

By The Spokesman-Review

BOISE – The Idaho Education Association has released partial results of a statewide poll it commissioned both last year and this year, showing that likely voters in Idaho continue to have strongly favorable views of teachers, but give state schools Superintendent Tom Luna considerably higher unfavorable ratings now than a year ago.

“Superintendent Luna is currently on a taxpayer-funded tour to try and sell the bad laws that he pushed through the Idaho Legislature this year,” said association President Sherri Wood. “But Idahoans rightly remain skeptical of these laws that impose costly new mandates on our school districts and will lead to larger class sizes and lost Idaho jobs.”

The poll, conducted by Grove Insight of Portland from March 13 to March 15 this year, queried 600 registered Idaho voters likely to vote in November 2012; it had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

When asked about their impression of teachers, 75 percent of respondents had favorable views, compared with 77 percent a year ago. Just 6 percent had unfavorable views, down from 7 percent in March 2010.

Asked about Luna, respondents were 25 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable; last year, 30 percent had a favorable view of him and 18 percent viewed him unfavorably. Respondents who were neutral on Luna fell from 51 percent to 30 percent.

Melissa McGrath, Luna’s spokeswoman, said, “It appears that the IEA is trying to use this poll to pit Idahoans against Idahoans, rather than studying the important issues facing education today. As always, Superintendent Luna is focusing on what’s best for Idaho students, which includes strategic investments in the classrooms to ensure we have highly effective teachers every year children are in school, instructional technology to improve student learning across the state, and more transparent accountability at all levels in our education system.”

Task force expanding

The task force that will oversee implementation of Luna’s “Students Come First” technology plan, including a phased-in goal of creating a “one-to-one ratio” of laptop computers to high school students in Idaho, is expanding.

Luna announced that he’s decided to add seven more members – two parents, three local school board members, and two “at-large” members – to the 28 members already called for in SB 1184, the school reform bill that included the task force.

Under the bill, Luna is charged with appointing 17 of the 28. The bill designates particular types of appointments the superintendent will make to the task force “at a minimum,” including four school district superintendents, one head of a virtual public charter school, and two secondary school classroom teachers.

The others who get to appoint task force members – the House and Senate, which get two appointments each; the governor’s office, which gets one; and the Idaho Education Association, Northwest Professional Educators, Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence, and Idaho Digital Learning Academy, each of which get one appointee – don’t have that “at a minimum” language, so they can’t expand the number of their appointees.

“Because of overwhelming interest from across Idaho, I have added positions for parents, school board trustees and at-large members to ensure we have broad-based and balanced representation on this task force, which will play a critical role in the implementation of Students Come First,” Luna said.

The move swells the task force to 35 members, of which Luna will appoint 24. His office is now accepting applications and nominations.

Biggest gift ever

Boise State University is receiving the largest charitable gift in the university’s nearly 80-year history: a $13 million donation from Micron Technology to the College of Engineering to start a doctoral program in materials science and engineering.

Steve Appleton, Micron CEO, said, “A doctorate program focused on materials science and engineering will strengthen Boise State’s ability to develop breakthrough technologies and help create the associated broad-based economic and societal benefits.”

BSU President Bob Kustra said, “This landmark gift will position Boise State’s materials science program as one of the top research engines in the region, and we are grateful for Micron’s continued support.”

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