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Twin Falls Students Join In Protest

Students from Canyon Ridge High School are marching on Twin Falls City Hall and the school district's office in protest of proposed public education reform. An 8:50 a.m. rally at Canyon Ridge High School has morphed into a city-spanning march, as CRHS students walked to Twin Falls High School shortly after 9 a.m. While CRHS students hoped to have Twin Falls High School students join them, TFHS Principal Ben Allen barred his students from leaving the building and participating in the march. He also asked Twin Falls police to remove the Canyon Ridge students from TFHS property. At City Hall, Twin Falls Police Chief Brian Pike called the rally "democracy in action"/Twin Falls Times-News. More here.

Question: Did Twin Falls High principal deny his students their rights to join in protest?

Mom: Luna Hid Plan During Campaign

Dottie Douglas of Boise was next up. A mother of two schoolchildren in Boise schools, she said, “I am not happy with what has been done with these bills. … Supt. Luna ran for election on unstated premises. He did not present his plan during the election, only after it. … And then the process has been pushed at lightning speed. There are many things that need to be figured out before this thing proceeds.” She said, “The purpose of these bills is to save money by cutting educational funding. The bills do not, I repeat not, put students first. If it did put students first, educators would have been involved from the beginning. Perhaps a compromise might have been reached”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Do you think the outcome for Tom Luna's education "reform" plan will be different in the House than it was in the Senate?

Students Yell ‘Kill The Bill’, Get Boot

Boise Police Department and Idaho State Police officers ushered protesting students out of the state Capitol on Monday afternoon, after roughly 150 students demonstrating against school superintendent Tom Luna's education-reform proposals began chanting in the rotunda. With students on the three floors shouting "Kill the Bill," the noise reached every corner of the Capitol. Officers escorted the students down the steps, out of the building and across Jefferson St. "It was just getting a little out of hand. It was distrubing and regular business could not proceed," said ISP Capt. Brian Zimmerman. "They've been very cooperative. They've followed our directions. They can be anywhere they want in this public building, they just have to be a little bit more civil"/Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Did you take part in a demonstration, as a kid or young adult?

Statesman: Put Brakes On Luna Plans

Idaho public schools face a budget crisis, whether or not Tom Luna’s education overhaul plan becomes law. However, the state superintendent’s Students Come First plan does not provide a clear path forward. It instead complicates an already difficult situation. We urge the Legislature to put the brakes on a plan that has confused and divided Idahoans — not just the traditional education “stakeholders,” but the parents who send their children to school, and the taxpayers who finance the school system. This rushed plan represents a recipe for upheaval that cannot well serve the state’s 275,000 public school students. We do not arrive at this conclusion casually. On Jan. 16, we praised Luna for unveiling “a vision for education that deserves a close look, particularly in challenging times”/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP file photo, of Tom Luna)

Question: What do you make of this about-face on Tom Luna's education "reform"?

Student Walkout Protests Luna Plan

About 100 Boise High School students (pictured) are now gathered in the second-floor rotunda of the state capitol, where they're quietly doing their homework. It's part of walkouts at high schools across the state this morning in protest of the proposed school reform plan; the Associated Press reports that about 100 students walked out of classes at Meridian High School and more than 150 walked out at Nampa High. Students were also reported to have walked out of classes at other high schools in Boise, Caldwell and Pocatello/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. (SR photo/Betsy Russell)
  

  • DFO: The 3 local school districts told Alison Boggs that they haven't heard of a walkout involving Kootenai County high school students.

Question: What impact will the student walkout have on legislative approval of Superintendent Tom Luna's education "reform"?

Popkey: Myopia Cost Teachers Union

Item: Myopia kept Idaho Education Association from seeing big picture/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman

More Info: Had the IEA paid attention to key Senate races, the outcome could well have been different. Two seats might have been saved — in Southeast Boise and Twin Falls. You might say, as IEA President Sherri Wood does, that a two-seat gain would have meant an 18-17 win for Luna. My read is a one-vote margin would mean both bills would still be in the Senate Education Committee, where Luna’s third bill is stuck because of a similarly sketchy majority. Close votes on huge policy changes make lawmakers nervous, especially since Luna revealed the plan just six weeks ago and public reaction has been largely negative.

Question: Do you agree with Dan Popkey's contention that the Idaho Education Association would have been better off concentrating money and effort in helping key senators win, rather than beating Luna?

Some Want To Preserve Class Size

Idaho Republican senators are looking for ways to revise the centerpiece of Tom Luna’s education-reform package so class sizes can remain at their current level and local districts have more flexibility in spending their state dollars. Senate Bill 1113 passed out of the Senate Education Committee 5-4 earlier this month, but wavering support and a lack of votes in the Senate persuaded Republicans to consider changes, even as they passed the other two parts of school Superintendent Luna’s overhaul on Thursday — a pay-for-performance plan and a rewriting of the labor contracts between districts and teachers. The final piece of Luna’s plan, a move to fund more technology in the classroom and increase teacher pay by eliminating 770 teaching positions and increasing class size, has been the most controversial. Increasing class size has been the No. 1 complaint from citizens, lawmakers have said consistently/Brian Murphy, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: How would an increase of only one or two students per classroom affect Idaho education?

Vickie’s Hunch: IEA Will Sue

On her blog today, Editor Vickie Holbrook of the Idaho Press-Tribune/Nampa raised an interesting question: "When Idaho Education Association President Sherri Wood visited with the Idaho Press-Tribune editorial board a couple of weeks ago, she dropped the words, "Idaho's constitutional duty" to provide education. Listen to the audio. She didn't say it, but I sensed that a lawsuit against the state of Idaho could be a last resort if Luna's plan got the green light." You can reach more re: Vickie's hunch here.

Question: Does  the Idaho Education Association have good grounds to sue to stop implementation of Superintendent Tom Luna's education "reform" package, if it becomes law?

IEA Plans Candlelight Vigils Tonight

The Idaho Senate has passed Senate Bill 1108, the bill to gut teacher rights, on a 20-15 vote. Eight Republican lawmakers joined all seven Democrats in opposing the bill. It will now go to the House Education Committee. There will be candlelight vigils this evening (Thursday, Feb. 24) across Idaho to mark S 1108's passage and to stand in opposition to the continued efforts of Superintendent Tom Luna to railroad these bills through the Legislature. This list will be updated throughout the afternoon/Idaho Education Association. More here.

Reaction?

Goedde Defends Unfunded Merit Pay

Sen. John Goedde, opening debate on SB 1110, the teacher performance pay bill, said it will reward teachers with bonuses for outstanding work, and let districts pay more to those in hard-to-fill positions. “Senators, we have an educator pay scale that's built in the 19th century,” Goedde said. “It doesn't work, it doesn't recognize excellence.” Sen. Michelle Stennett, D-Ketchum, said, “I'm having a hard time understanding how we're actually funding this. Where does the money actually come from?” Goedde said the cost would be $38 million starting in fiscal year 2013, and “there is no funding source attached to this”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: If you applied the merit pay principle to North Idaho solons, which ones would deserve raises or bonuses?

Senate OKs 1st Of Luna’s Bills 20-15

Update: SB 1108 has passed the Senate on a rather close 20-15 vote, with bipartisan opposition. The Senate has now moved immediately to take up SB 1110, the teacher performance pay bill.

“I've received more email on this bill than any other bill in my years in the Legislature,” Sen. Les Bock, D-Boise, told the Senate. “We need more time to look at this. … We need more time. What is the rush?”
Sen. Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, who repeatedly objected to debate that was offered by Democratic senators on the motion that Davis said was actually debate on the bill, said Bock's argument - great public interest - is a reason to vote on the bill now. “I urge you to vote against the motion,” he said. … The motion to delay debate of SB 1108 indefinitely then was defeated on a straight party-line vote/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Are you as surprised as I am that Hammond, a former school principal and erstwhile moderate, is embracing Tom Luna's radical plan?

Adam: Fear, Loathing In Ed Reform

The anti-education left has on its side, the powerful allies of fear and loathing of the unknown. Most voters know what a brick and mortar public school operating for a set number of periods with teachers in every classroom looks like. This whole online learning thing is unknown to a great percentage of voters. And there’s nothing easier for demogogues to make people scared of than the unknown. To make matters more difficult, out of staters will likely have some role in the software area, and most anyone who has extensive experience with this sort of system will be out of state. Other than the unknown, nothing can make people more scared than outsiders/Adam Graham, Adam's Blog. More here.

Question: State Sen. Steve Vick tweeted this morning that the Idaho Education Association appears to be the prime opponent to Tom Luna's education 'reform' plans. Others say that the entire state of Idaho is up in arms against the radical changes. Who do you think is right?

Boisean Begins Luna Recall Drive

Some Idahoans are at the boiling point when it comes to education reform. But now an official petition calling for Idaho's school chief to step down is circulating. "Last night I scanned in the petition," said Nancy Berto, petition organizer. "I started emailing it to people all over the state and this morning I've already got some messages on my email and so I'm hopeful." Berto is hoping to collect enough signatures to recall Idaho superintendent Tom Luna. She'll need more than 150,000 signatures to do so/Jen Wahl, KBOI. More here.

Question: Would you support a recall effort against Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna?

Marty: Luna Guilty Of Political Fraud

mid all the weekend revelations about Idaho schools Superintendent Tom Luna's effort to create a multimillion-dollar market for his friends in the online education industry is something hiding in plain sight: Luna didn't just concoct eliminating 770 teaching jobs, crowding more kids into smaller classes and steering some of the savings toward providers of online courses. That's simply not credible given how long Luna has been in bed with the people running that industry. All of which suggests Idaho's top educator is guilty of political fraud. When did you hear Luna talk about this massive reorganization of your tax dollars away from teacher salaries and into the pockets of his friends in the online education industry? Not during his re-election campaign/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Did Superintendent Tom Luna have a moral obligation to Idahoans to unveil has radical education reform proposals during his 2010 re-election campaign?

IACI Bankrolls Otter/Luna Phone Call

Thousands of Idahoans participated in a telephone town hall led by Gov. Butch Otter and other advocates of school reform. Monday night’s forum was paid for by the state’s largest business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. Otter was joined by the author of the “Students Come First” plan, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and the two chairmen of the Legislature’s education committees, Sen. John Goedde and Rep. Bob Nonini, both Republicans from Coeur d’Alene. Otter invited recipients of the call to join the one-hour forum in a recorded message, and they could choose whether to participate in the live call. Participants were asked two questions, according to IACI President Alex LaBeau, basically: "Do you support education reform?" and "Do you support raising taxes or not?" The reform question did not specifically mention the Luna-Otter “Students Come First” plan/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Charlie Litchfield)

Question: What do you make of Idaho's largest business group bankrolling a telephone town hall, featuring Gov. Butch Otter, Superintendent Tom Luna, and the 2 education chairman pushing ed 'reform'?

Poll: Thinking Less Of Denney

  • Monday Poll: Overwhelmingly, Hucks Nation thinks less of House Speaker Lawerence Denney for his role in (mis)handling ethics problems involving Rep. Phil Hart's tax and timber problems. 85 of 92 respondents (92.4%) said they think less of Denney now than before the various ethics complaints surfaced against Hart. Only 5 of 92 (5.4%) think more of Denney. 2 were undecided.
  • Education Poll: When asked "Who knows what's best for Idaho education," 107 of 133 respondents (80.45%) said educators and 26 of 133 (19.55%) said Superintendent Tom Luna.
  • Today's Poll: Should Post Falls Officer Ian Johnson have been fired for pretending to Taser a friend while on duty?

Senate R’s To Mull Ed Bills In Private

"She's supposed to go to kindergarten in the fall," said Olivia Rhodes' stepfather, Darren Thiesen, of Rathdrum, as Rhodes held her sign at the education rally in Coeur d'Alene on Monday. Hundreds gathered at Coeur d'Alene City Hall and marched to the Human Rights Education Institute to protest the school reform bill. Betsy Russell's report re: statewide rallies against Superintendent Tom Luna's plan here. (SR photo: Kathy Plonka)

Senate Republicans plan to go into a closed-door caucus at 11 a.m. today (10 a.m. PST), according to Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg; there's no word at this point what will happen with the education reform bills, but there could be after the caucus.

Question: Why are Senate Republicans meeting in private to discuss Tom Luna's education "reform" proposals?

Dennis: Luna Gets ‘F’ On PR Front

I have a feeling that the anti-reform teachers, parents and children are rising up and Tom Luna is losing the PR war. The incredible lack of countering the highly successful anti-reform earned media coverage is potentially devastating to the Supe's plan. His and his staff's PR silence is deafening. Tom Luna's political life is at stake, yet does his staff get it? Where are the pro-reform principals? Nowhere. Where are the pro-reform families? Nada. It's as if they think that the Senators and Reps are all that they need to pass this legislation. How terribly short-sighted/Dennis Mansfield. More here.

Question: Why hasn't Superintendent Tom Luna and his staff done a better job at trying to sell his education "reform" package?

RU: Luna’s Problems Deeper Than PR

Rational Universe: Luna’s problems go much deeper than just poor PR. He campaigned on “his” successes raising test scores in Idaho. Then he turns around, describes our schools as failing and places all the blame squarely in the laps of those who actually did the work to improve scores — the teachers. He sought no input from stakeholders in creating this plan. He states that he did, but that is simply not true. Everyone was blindsided by this plan. Luna charges the teachers’ Union with spreading dis-information. He is the master of dis-information. Luna continually states that only Idaho certified teachers will teach those online courses. What he doesn’t say is that that so-called Idaho teacher could be living in New Jersey and teaching through a for-profit online school based in Virginia.

Question: Do you expect a PR push by the Idaho Republican Party to try to sell Tom Luna's attempt to overhaul Idaho education, now that the theory has been put forth that it is losing PR battle?

ICB: Luna Losing PR Battle

I have been reluctant to venture out into Idaho State Superintendent Luna’s “Students Come First” initiative because I hate Politics and Education to mix but I guess there is no getting around it,  with so much money involved when it comes to state funded education, it’s all about politics. It appears to me Tom Luna is losing the PR battle.  News reports opposing Luna seem to outnumber the positive reports.   I’m not sure if he was prepared for the battle that awaited him.   I have met Tom Luna.  He is a smart man, articulate, and passionate about his job.  He must have known this battle was going to get ugly.  All I know about this issue is what I read in the paper, see on the news, or hear on talk radio.  Interesting ICB has not received one press release from the Luna camp stating his position/Idaho Conservative Blogger. More here.

Question: Is Superintendent Tom Luna's problem in trying to sell his education "reform" plan to the public, simply a matter of poor public relations? Or does it go much deeper than that?

NI Educators March In Downtown CdA

North Idaho educators and supporters are marching down Sherman Avenue in protest to Tom Luna's education "reform" plans as i post this. Here, Sandpoint High student Tyson Bird is talking to KHQ reporters about his objections to Luna's radical plan. (Photo courtesy of William Love)

43rdSB: Popkey Connects Luna Dots

Popkey's promised story is published, fleshing out the details in the concerted effort, for most of a decade of private, profit driven corporations gradually taking over the public education system in Idaho. The article expands the cast of characters of wealthy ideologically right wing players, including, Fox magnate Rupert Murdoch, junk bond felon Michael Milkin, the hypocrite Bill Bennett, and the son of disgraced Idaho Congressman George Hansen. In so doing Popkey connects the dots from the money to Luna and his education deform package/Sisyphus, 43rd State Blues. More here.

More Than 1000 Rally Vs. Luna Plans

More than a thousand people are closely packed into Capitol Park across from the state Capitol today for what was billed as a rally in favor of public education, and is decidedly a rally against state schools Supt. Tom Luna's school reform plan. Periodically, the crowd broke out into chants of “Kill the bills, kill the bills.” Longtime Boise School District trustee Rory Jones told the crowd, “This bill solves one problem and one problem only, and that is the lack of resolve to fund public schools”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here. And: Idaho Statesman story here. (Idaho Statesman photo: Chris Butler)

Luna, Online Ed Firms Go Way Back

In October 2009, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna held a re-election fundraiser in the Capitol Hill offices of Dutko Worldwide, one of America’s top lobbying firms. Sponsors included two leading voices in the Republican education re-form movement: former U.S. Education secretaries William Bennett and Rod Paige. The event marked an important moment in Luna’s re-election bid, as he won support from education technology companies interested in changing state policy to boost their business. If Luna’s “Students Come First” proposal passes the Legislature, online education will be mandated in Idaho and a laptop will be available to every high school student. That means 115 school districts, with 82,000 high school students, will be in the market for computers, software and online courses/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Does Luna's ties with online education companies cause you to question his education reform plans that rely heavily on computers?

Albertson Heir Cashes In On Online Ed

Since 2007, Joseph B. Scott’s investment company, Alscott Inc., has brought in more than $15 million by selling part of its stake in Virginia-based K12 Inc., which sells online courses and other services to public schools. Meanwhile, his family’s tax-exempt foundation has helped K12 tap Idaho taxpayer dollars and now is supporting state schools chief Tom Luna’s plan to require every high school student in the state to take online classes. For nearly a decade, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation has chipped in millions toward Idaho’s online public education system. One of those online schools, the Idaho Virtual Academy, has, in turn, directed tens of millions of public dollars into K12’s company coffers, for services ranging from curriculum to administration. … With debate over expanding Idaho’s Internet-based education system now dominating the 2011 Legislature, Scott, who is Joe Albertson’s grandson, and an avid skier with his own helicopter, isn’t staying on the sidelines, either/John Miller, Associated Press. More here.

Question: In a speech Friday, Luna denied that his radical plans for education reform were influenced by thousands of dollars in contribution from online education sources, like K12. What do you think?

First Lady Defends Luna Ed ‘Reform’

Whether you have been at the head of the classroom or in a desk on the other end, you know the importance of quality teaching. It makes all the difference. With the help of a great teacher, a struggling student can excel. Under an ineffective teacher, that student may never catch up. We know this from our own school experiences, as well as extensive research. The teacher is and always will be the most important factor in student success. If we truly want to put students first, we have to make sure we invest in Idaho’s teachers.  That’s exactly what the Students Come First plan does. As a former teacher, I am excited about the possibilities this plan provides for great teachers now and in the future. Some have claimed this plan “devalues teachers.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the only option that actually invests in teachers/Lori Otter, Office of the First Lady. More here. (AP file photo of Gov. Otter and Miss Lori)

Question: Why do you think proponents are rolling out the heavy hitters like First Lady Lori Otter to defend Tom Luna's radical education "reform" plans? After all, they're winning the legislative battle.

FLS: Laptop In Every Locker? C’mon

Fat Lady Sings: Laptops for every student? Really? What happens when students (who lack supervision and/or the presence of positive role models or who trip on a rock) damage, destroy or pawn their laptops? How is the laptop replaced? What is the turn around time? What happens if the student misses a test as a result of not having access to their laptop? Who will provide IT services for the students? What happens if the student’s parent/s lose a job and cannot afford the internet connection and the service is shut off by the provider? And a 100 other what-if questions that are not even far fetched … what then? It’s an administrative and financial nightmare. (Full comment below)

Question: What do you think of Tom Luna's plan to provide a laptop to every high school freshman — and then expect that freshman to learn and take care of that laptop?

Andreason: 90% Against Ed Overhaul

Sen. John Andreason, R-Boise, asked state schools Supt. Tom Luna, “Is it your opinion that we now have a finished product?” Or, he said, with all the changes, is there a need to go back and work over the plan with all the stakeholders? Luna responded that he's asking the committee to pass the three bills today. “There are some things that have to happen immediately,” he said. Among them: Addressing the current funding crisis, and giving school districts “the ability to manage” personnel and labor decisions. Said Luna, “This is the product that has to move forward.” Andreason said, “Mr. Chairman, I've received over 1,400 emails - 90 percent were against this plan. I'm trying to save the plan”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

  • Idaho Reporter Twitter: "Sen. Malepeai received 1500 e-mails on #LunaPlan “A resounding number of folks from all walks of life a problem or another"

Question: Marty Trillhaase of the Lewiston Tribune noted yesterday that the Legislature can't do anything, no matter how small, without appointing a task force to study it. How can that same group of timid individuals by pushing ahead a radical overhaul of the state's education system without careful study?

Kevin: Luna, Et Al, Hold Your Horses

Let’s start where we can agree. Slashing tires and spray painting a pickup truck are flat out wrong. That also goes for planning to confront the elderly mother of an elected official. Here’s where you might not agree with me. I’m not prepared to conclude that these unacceptable acts of vandalism and goonery are all related to politics. And I’m dismayed at those who have rushed to that judgment, for political gain. Amidst a bitter fight over his education reform plan, state schools superintendent Tom Luna has reported both of the above incidents to Nampa police. Now, let’s let the police do their jobs. Meanwhile, I’m going to be sympathetic, but open-minded. Luna is right. Family and personal property should be off-limits, even in heated debate. If these incidents were motivated by politics, then it embodies politics at its ugliest. But we’re still in “if-then” mode/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Do you agree with Kevin that Luna, Gov. Butch Otter, and other education "reform" allies should let the cops do their work in this vandalism case before blaming the IEA for inciting the act?

CdA Charter Chief Backs Luna Plan

In his testimony to Idaho legislators, Principal Dan Nicklay of the Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy said in part: "It is  unfortunate that the majority of the plan's critics focus not on whether this plan is good for students, but on their feelings that they weren't adequately consulted, and that it is going to be difficult for the adults, affecting their job security, their accustomed way of doing things, and their aversion to change.  I actually heard someone say to this committee the other day that this plan, to be done correctly, should have taken YEARS to develop.  We don't have years.  The money is gone. The same old answers haven't worked.  The time for change is now." More here. (SR file photo/Kathy Plonka, of Principal Dan Nicklay during recess in May 2008)

Question: Are you surprised that the principal of the Coeur d'Alene Charter Academy would support Superintendent Tom Luna's "Students Come First" proposals?