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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.


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?

MM: Luna’s Plans Are Utter Crap

Moscow Minidoka: I find it funny that when nearly everyone I talk to in this state (including my very conservative relatives in southeastern Idaho, Boise, and the Magic Valley) thinks Luna’s plan is utter crap, someone it’s only “union thugs” who would stoop to this. Yeah, I’m sure some 50-something math teacher went over there and trashed Luna’s truck. Let’s see: Idaho citizens OVERWHELMINGLY OPPOSE this plan, yet Luna and the Legislature seem determined to do whatever the hell they want, just like ITD did with the megaloads, and just like the Legislature is doing with a bunch of other bills that are supported by ideologues in the statehouse, but not by the average Idahoan.

Question: Do you think Superintendent Tom Luna is qualified to be suggesting such radical changes to public education?

Semanko Joins Luna Blame Game

Idaho Republican Party State Chairman Norm Semanko, pictured, issued the following statement in response to the recent incidents of harassment toward Superintendent Luna: “This is what happens when you step out and fight against the status quo.  As Idahoans we cannot let these scare tactics win,” said Semanko.   “The Students Come First plan has obviously touched a nerve and rightly so. We know the opposition’s rhetoric and misinformation has gotten us to this point today, and we cannot let these hostile tactics win in the end.  We must do what’s right for Idaho students”/AP, via Betsy Russell's Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Is it just me or is Luna, with gale wind help from Gov. Butch Otter and GOP chairman Norm Semanko, trying to make himself out to be the victim here? Gracious, I once had all four tires of my car slashed at Flathead High in Kalispell, Mont., during a barbershop quartet concert. Now I wonder if you the school union thugs from the Flathead Valley were mad at something I'd written.

Luna Claims Vandalism IEA ‘Thuggery’

A pick-up truck that belongs to to Idaho Department of Education Superintendent Tom Luna is shown outside his Nampa home Tuesday. Vandals slashed two tires and spray-painted the truck of Luna, as the furor over his proposed education reforms appeared to grow uglier. Hearings on the education reforms were expected to continue Tuesday in the Idaho Senate, where the legislation was introduced earlier this month and is now being reworked amid opposition from teachers, parents and some lawmakers. Story by Patrick Orr/Statesman here. (AP Photo/Idaho Press-Tribune, Greg Kreller)

Question: Luna blames the attack on “union thuggery” (Idaho Education Association), despite the clear condemnation of this event by IEA representatives. Should he have made that claim without evidence?

Luna: Teachers Could Cut Own Pay

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna has switched his list of five new bills to just three: One on labor conditions, one on reform, and a separate bill on pay for performance. Introducing the new measures, Luna said, “Ultimately because of this legislation, class sizes will be determined at the local level.” He said that he heard from teachers and other stakeholders that they wanted that option. “They expressed an interest in being able to choose to reduce their own pay in order to keep class sizes at the same level in their district,” Luna said, and to prevent teaching jobs in their district from being cut/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Would you vote to cut your own salary, if it meant saving the jobs of co-workers?

Luna: People riled up

State schools Supt. Tom Luna pitches his education reform legislation to the Senate Education Committee on Monday, at the first of four days of hearings on the two-bill package.

There's been “an organized attempt to get people riled up” over his school reform plan, state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna told the Senate Education Committee. He said people have focused on his proposals to require online courses, provide a laptop for every high school student and increase class sizes in grades 4-12 rather than his proposals to eliminate tenure for new teachers and make other changes to teacher contracts, because “those issues don't get people riled up.” Betsy Russell, EOB More.

So. Are you riled up?

Bill: Only B.A. For Superintendents?

Idaho State Schools Supt. Tom Luna wants to change state laws so that anyone who's at least 25 and has a bachelor's degree could be superintendent of an Idaho school district, the AP reports. “This will give local school boards the flexibility to hire the individual they deem the right person for the job, whether it's a former teacher, a CEO of a company, an individual with an MBA or another qualified candidate,” Luna said. Luna is the first non-educator to serve as Idaho's state schools chief; he was the president of an industrial truck scale company in Nampa when he defeated Democrat Jana Jones in the November 2006 election/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Is it a good idea to allow anyone with a bachelor's degree to be a school district superintendent?

School Reform: Obama, Idaho Style

President Obama has challenged the nation to prepare 100,000 new teachers in the next decade. Idaho schools superintendent Tom Luna’s education reform plan hinges upon cutting 770 teaching jobs over two years. I was struck by the contrast. And as the Legislature prepares for a defining debate over the future of its schools, I was struck by Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night, and the time and focus the president devoted to education issues. Obama’s education agenda isn’t far removed from Idaho’s agenda. Obama touted his “Race to the Top” grant program; Luna sought money for Idaho, unsuccessfully/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Would you rather have Barack Obama's style of school reform, or Tom Luna's?

Post Falls Woman Backs Luna’s Plan

Lorna Finman of Post Falls told lawmakers, “I am here today to wholeheartedly support Supt. Tom Luna's plan for students come first in Idaho. … We need to adapt and increase our level of education quality like never before if we are to adapt.”  Finman, who's been active in promoting technology programs including robotics for school kids in North Idaho, shared the story of a formerly homeless North Idaho student who was given a laptop computer, and became a successful programmer and went on to attend MIT/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.