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Recall Luna Founder Issues Statement

"No matter what you hear, this was NOT a partisan effort, this was not started by teachers or unions or Democrats. Anyone who says it was, is NOT telling you the truth! There were MANY Republicans who told me face to face, 'I voted for Luna, and now I am sorry I did. I want to sign the Recall petition!'" — Nancy Berto, Recall Luna founder, in a prepared statement. Full Statement here.

Question: Did you sign a petition either to recall Superintendent Tom Luna or to place referendums against three pieces of Luna education reform bills on the 2012 ballot?

Luna: ‘Opponents tried to make it personal’

State schools Supt. Tom Luna issued this statement today on the failure of a recall drive against him over his “Students Come First” school-reform laws: “Students Come First has always been about reforming education so we can educate more students at a higher level with limited resources. Opponents of the laws have tried to make it personal. Reforming education has never been about me; it’s about giving our students more opportunities.  Our focus and priority has been and will continue to be implementation of the laws.” You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Recall drive falls short; no special election in August on Luna, Toryanski, Ellsworth

The effort to recall state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna has officially failed, with backers falling well short of the 158,000-plus signatures needed by today's deadline to force a special election in August. An effort to target two Boise legislators for recall, GOP Sen. Mitch Toryanski and Rep. Julie Ellsworth, for their support of Luna's school reform bills, also fell short, gathering only about a quarter of the required signatures. Morgan Hill, campaign manager, said, “It's not that we didn't have support for it. I think that people all over the state were looking to sign a recall petition. We're still getting people even today who are coming up to us. But a lot of people didn't have access to us, they didn't know about it. … A lot of folks didn't even know who Tom Luna was to begin with, which was the most surprising thing.”

Hill, a Boise pilot, said the campaign raised only about $4,500, plus another $15,000 worth of in-kind advertising donations, and relied entirely on volunteers. Though it reported in early June that it had more than 75,000 signatures, Hill said an “error in the numbers” forced a recount yesterday, which led to the conclusion late last night that the campaign had gathered only about 50,000 signatures for the statewide recall petition. “Yeah, the bar was very high, and maybe unachievable, but we did a very great thing, and that's involving people in the political process,” Hill said. “Something we can look forward to in the future is that we have so many more people, tens of thousands more people now, who are involved in the political process who would not have been otherwise.”

Hill said the campaign also was hurt by the Idaho Education Association's decision not to support the recall effort; the teachers' union backed a successful referendum drive that will place all three of Luna's controversial new school reform laws on the ballot for possible repeal in the November 2012 election.

Hill will hold a press conference on the state Capitol steps at 4 p.m. today, and he said the campaign consider forming a new nonpartisan watchdog organization. “This was all started because of one man's reckless leadership and his intention to basically deconstruct the education system and basically feed it off to special interests,” Hill said. “The people came together because of that. Despite that we didn't make it, we did accomplish a much bigger goal, which is involving so many more people into the political process. I think that is the real victory, that a lot more people are aware now.”

Luna to feds: Idaho won’t raise NCLB ‘benchmarks’ next year

Idaho state schools Superintendent Tom Luna has sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan saying Idaho won't increase the “benchmarks” its students have to reach under the federal No Child Left Behind law next year, as the law requires, because the law measures only proficiency, not student academic growth from year to year. Instead, Idaho will use its own system for gauging student achievement, and not comply with that provision of No Child Left Behind until the federal law is overhauled to use better measures, the AP reports; click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner. You can read Luna's letter to Duncan here.

Idaho plan for online course requirements called ‘model for rest of country’ by Jeb Bush

Here's a link to my full story at spokesman.com on this morning's visit from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise to boost state schools Supt. Tom Luna's "Students Come First" school reform plan; Bush proclaimed Idaho's new laws requiring online courses and funding them “one of a kind,” and said he thinks they “will be the models for the rest of the country.” And here's a link to an April New York Times story on how Bush is pushing his "Florida Formula" for education reform around the nation.

Luna moves on reforms even as referendums to undo them make ballot

Idaho state schools chief Tom Luna opened the deliberations of a 39-member task force today that'll help determine how to implement big new school technology investments, even as the Idaho Secretary of State's office issued certificates officially placing three referendums on the November 2012 ballot to overturn the reforms. The final tally, issued Monday, showed each of the three referendum petitions on Luna's "Students Come First" reform bills received more than 74,000 signatures, far more than the required 47,432.

Nevertheless, Luna said today, "We're implementing the law. … It's the law of the land. We can't have the education system in Idaho in limbo, so our job now is to implement this properly. … That's why this committee is meeting today." House Education Chairman Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d'Alene, who serves on the task force, said, "We've got our work ahead of us. … We'll just move forward as if the referendums are not going to pass."

After a full day of meetings today, including afternoon gatherings of five subcommittees, the task force scheduled to hear Tuesday from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise; you can watch live here. "This is just the beginning," Luna said. "There's meetings every month from here on out." You can read my full story here at spokesman.com.

Luna Mum re: Investigating Teachers

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna warned educators last month they could be fired for politicking at school, but says he can't disclose whether any are under investigation. Luna's spokeswoman, Melissa McGrath, wrote last week that "at least 10 informal complaints" had been filed with the 18-member Idaho Professional Standards Commission, the panel that reviews violations of the ethics code for Idaho educators and can strip them of the certification required to teach in public schools. In a May 13 memo sent to all of Idaho's K-12 school trustees and administrators, Luna said he had received "numerous reports" of ethical violations/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Should teachers be investigated for political conduct on campus that may have occurred prior to Luna's well-publicized warning to stop such conduct?

Luna schedules Jeb Bush to address first tech task force meeting

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Public schools chief Tom Luna says two former governors will visit Idaho next week to help him kick off the first meeting of his technology task force. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise are expected to make presentations Tuesday when Luna's task force convenes at the Idaho Capitol in Boise. The task force was formed as part of Luna's new education reforms and the group will study the implementation of a laptop program for Idaho high school students. The state will also limit teachers union bargaining rights, introduce merit pay and shift money from salaries to classroom technology as part of Luna's education reforms. Some teachers, parents and students have criticized the measures, prompting a referendum campaign aimed at repealing them.

Dem Chided For Anti-Luna Email

Item: Boise Democratic Rep. Sue Chew chided for email: Rep. Sue Chew sought teachers’ help in recruiting students to overturn the Luna education reform laws/Dan Popkey

More Info: House Minority Leader John Rusche told Rep. Sue Chew on Monday that an email sent from her legislative account to nearly 800 addressees was inappropriate. The May 12 email suggested high school government classes focus on referendums seeking to overturn three education reform laws authored by GOP Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. “Allowing students to register to vote and keeping them informed of upcoming events, such as the referendum, is a way for the teachers to instill the rhetoric from class within their students’ lives,” said the email.

Question: Did Rep. Sue Chew act properly in using her legislative email to lobby against education "reform" laws pushed by Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna?

Otter To Campaign Against Referenda

Idaho Gov. Otter vowed today to personally campaign against the voter referendum to overturn this year's school reform legislation, even as the tally of Idahoans signing petitions to place the measures on the ballot hit the 65,000 mark - nearly 20,000 more than the number required. “That's the people's right - that's what being part of a republic is all about,” Otter said. “We're going to do our level best to make sure that the correct information gets out.” Otter said, “I fully intend to be as involved as I possibly can be,” and added, “I hope they fail”/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: Are you surprised that Gov. Otter is going to actively oppose referenda to overthrown the Luna laws?

Statesman: Voters To Get Last Word

On Wednesday, the critics of the Students Come First education overhaul got what they wanted. And the plan’s stealth architect, State Superintendent Tom Luna, got what he deserved. Opponents said they have collected the 47,432 voter signatures necessary to put the three laws on the November 2012 ballot. The apparent success of the referendum drive — nearly two weeks before the deadline — illustrates that the Students Come First furor didn’t subside when the Legislature left town in April. Both the content and the process remain controversial/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: On Thursday, GOP Chairman Norm Semanko issued a press release that basically said he wasn't surprised that opponents of Superintendent Tom Luna's reforms were able to collect enough signatures to get three referendums on the 2012 ballot. Do you believe the Idaho GOP is unconcerned about the referendums?

Luna Installed Extra Panic Button

Item: Tom Luna's safety in question? Superintendent's staff installs panic button/Ben Botkin, Twin Falls Times-News

More Info: Idaho public schools chief Tom Luna’s staff ordered an additional panic button for their office while emotions ran high and state lawmakers weighed his proposed education overhaul in late March. Public expense records show that the state paid $868.31 on March 31 to Allied General Fire and Security Inc. for installation of a third panic button in the State Department of Education office in Boise.

Question: Do you have adequate security in your workplace?

Poll: Idahoans Unsure re: Luna Plan

New statewide opinion research finds Idahoans distinctly unsure that the educational reform efforts that dominated the state legislative session this year will help Idaho students be better prepared for learning beyond high school and to enter the workforce. My public affairs firm teamed up with respected pollster Greg Strimple and the Idaho Business Review to conduct a 400 sample survey in late April that was aimed at understanding more about where the Idaho economy may be headed and the priorities voters attach to various issues. The poll has a +/- of 4.9%. Idahoans in our survey were almost equally split: 24.5% said the Luna efforts would make students better prepared, 27.3% said less prepared, 28% said the reforms would have no difference. The rest didn’t know or declined to answer/Marc Johnson, The Johnson Post. More here.

Question: How do you interpret these numbers re: Superintendent Tom Luna's education reform?

Marty: Luna Spreading McCarthyism

Good morning and welcome to the annual Joseph R. McCarthy Award. This year, the choice was clear: Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. As we all know, this accolade's namesake set the standard for using flimsy evidence, making reckless accusations, employing political intimidation, coercion, blacklisting and hypocrisy. … Which brings us to Luna's scare tactics. Unhappy with the superintendent's newly passed laws that impose merit pay, curb collective bargaining rights and replace breathing teachers with artificial intelligence, some educators are working to recall him. Others would put all three laws up for a referendum vote in 2012. Luna wants it stopped/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Have you ever been victimized by a form of McCarthyism?

Statesman: Luna Overplayed Hand

Of course, and for the record, Tom Luna is right. Politicking has no place in public education — especially when K-12’s scarce taxpayer resources are stretched as never before. But the state’s schools superintendent has overplayed his hand and picked a counterproductive public fight with Idaho teachers. In a widely distributed and heavy-handed email, Luna implies that the schools have become campaign headquarters in the drive to overturn his controversial “Students Come First” legislation. His email to the state’s district superintendents, charter school administrators and school board members was light on specifics. Luna said he has received numerous reports of improper political activities in recent weeks — activities that would violate the teachers’ code of ethics, “if substantiated.” That’s a mighty big “if”/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman Editorial Board. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Which side is to blame for the toxic relationship between Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and Idaho's teachers?

43rd State Blues: Luna Thuggery

Luna's latest weapon in this cause, Idaho's Code of Ethics applicable to educators, was deployed on Friday by virtue of another memo to state administrators. Again, relying on unsubstantiated hearsay, like Luna did when attacking the IEA for an act of vandalism, Luna accused a very expansive list of educators of wrongful political conduct by utilizing state education resources. Luna's recitation of the law to administrators is puzzlingly broad, prohibiting political conduct on "school grounds" when the code of ethics fails to mention the term anywhere. Indeed, Luna's memo is in the terms of an imperative black or white directive, when indeed the law is quite ambiguous and as yet untested against the weight of the Idaho and U.S. Constitutions./Sisyphus, 43rd State Blues. More here.

Question: Are you standing by your man, Tom Luna? Or have you signed a petition to recall him or to put his reform proposals on the 2012 ballot?

IEA Accuses Luna Of Intimidation

The Idaho Education Association criticized Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna of trying to intimidate educators by warning them not to participate in activities involving a recall attempt against him and a referendum to overthrow his public education reform. In the process, the IEA released this photo of supporters of Luna and other Republican candidates, taken at Lake City High last fall. (If memory serves me correctly, this photo may have been taken at the end of the Republican bus tour in North Idaho. If so, GOP supporters moved off school property when confronted by Lake City High officials). You can read the IEA news release here.

Luna Warns Teachers Of Retaliation

Teachers are being warned they could lose their certification if they participate in efforts to recall Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, repeal his new education reforms or engage in other political activities on school grounds. In a memo Friday, Luna said his office had received numerous inquiries and reports of teachers using their school email to coordinate political activities: proselytizing to students in the classroom and using pupils as couriers for political materials/Associated Press. More here.

Question: Is Luna's attempt to intimidate teachers a sign that the recall and referendum efforts are getting under his skin?

Luna’s office: No big-bucks hires for reforms, just staff shift, promotion

Though rumors are rife that the Idaho state Department of Education has added highly-paid staffers to implement the new "Students Come First" school reform plan, Luci Willits, chief of staff for state schools Supt. Tom Luna, says it's not true. "We're doing what we're asking school districts to do, which is to do things differently" with existing funding, Willits said. "At this point we haven't hired anyone new. All we've done is repurposed positions." She added, "Everyone's job at the department will be changing under Students Come First."

Two positions already are changing: Deputy Superintendent Mary Beth Flachbart has been assigned to oversee the implementation of the reforms, which include shifting teacher salary funds to technology investments, implementing a teacher merit-pay bonus program, and phasing in a program to provide one laptop computer or other computing device for every Idaho high school student. Flachbart, who oversees federal programs, special education, Title 1 and school improvement efforts, will continue to be a deputy superintendent; her salary of $89,315 a year (before furloughs) won't change because of the new assignment.

Camille Wells, a program specialist at the department for communication and governmental affairs, will be promoted to a "coordinator" position in which she'll work full-time on Students Come First, Willits said. That will move her up a pay grade; her new salary hasn't been set, but it will rise from the current $34,507 a year (before furloughs) to at least $44,034 a year in the new pay grade. Willits noted that the reform plan is phased over several years. "Some things happen now, some in the future," she said.

Luna's Department of Education budget for next year will see a 10.5 percent boost in state general funds, but that's in part because a federal grant ended to fund the state's student longitudinal data system and the state is having to pick up those costs, including six positions. The department's budget in total funds will be up 2.8 percent. "We had a 3.5 percent cut overall in the department if you look separately from the longitudinal data system," Willits said. That system, to track student achievement, was a requirement of receiving federal stimulus funds; Idaho was the last state to implement one. "Those longitudinal data funds can't be used to fund something else," she said. According to state budget documents, the number of authorized full-time positions at the department will rise from 130 this year to 133 next year; three positions were eliminated due to budget cuts.

Ed Referendum Halfway To Goal

Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform, the group backing referendum measures on all three major school reform bills that passed this year, has announced it's nearly halfway to its goal of collecting 60,000 signatures on each of the three petitions. The required number is just under 48,000, but Mike Lanza, group chairman, said the 60,000 goal will allow a “cushion” to account for any signatures that can't be verified. “We are just shy of 30,000 of each of the three petitions,” Lanza said. Click below for the group's full news release/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Question: What will be the impact politically in Idaho, if the referendum makes the ballot but organizers don't gather enough signatures to try to recall Superintendent Tom Luna?

Luna says he’ll expand ‘Students Come First’ tech task force to 35 members

Idaho state Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna announced today that he's expanding the 28-member technology task force that will oversee implementation of his "Students Come First" tech plan to add seven additional members - two parents, three local school board members, and two "at-large" members. Of the 28 members already called for in SB 1184, the school reform bill that included the task force, Luna is charged with appointing 17. “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. Click below for his full announcement; he's accepting applications and nominations for his appointees to the panel.

Luna can do this because the clause of SB 1184 that calls for the task force, on page 21 of the 24-page bill, says he'll serve as the chairman of the task force and designates particular types of appointments he'll make to the task force "at a minimum," including four school district superintendents, one head of a virtual public charter school, two secondary school classroom teachers and so forth. 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.

Marty: Not Leaving For Luna, But …

You can't blame Idaho school Superintendent Tom Luna's anti-teacher "reform" package for driving Lewiston High School's Agatha Trickey out of the classroom. Trickey, who is going to apply her math background toward another degree to become an actuary, is not the first teacher to suffer burnout early in her career and quit. In fact, this happens so frequently it's practically a syndrome. Anywhere from a third to half of newly minted public school teachers leave the profession after five years. Full of idealism and enthusiasm, young teachers quickly learn there is a lot of drudgery to this work. The hours are long. If you do it right, teaching can take your evenings and weekends/Marty Trillhaase, Lewiston Tribune. More here.

Question: Do you know of a burned-out teacher who has left the profession in the last 5 years?

New statewide poll commissioned by IEA: Luna’s unfavorables soar from a year ago

The Idaho Education Association has released partial results of a 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 Supt. 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 IEA 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, Ore., queried 600 registered Idaho voters likely to vote in November 2012 from March 13-15 this year; it had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent. When asked about their impression of teachers, 75 percent of respondents had favorable views, compared to 77 percent a year ago. Just 6 percent had unfavorable views, down from 7 percent in March of 2010. Asked about Luna, respondents were 25 percent favorable and 41 percent unfavorable, compared to last year's results of 30 percent favorable, 18 percent unfavorable. Respondents who were neutral on Luna fell from 51 percent to 30 percent.

Asked their view of the IEA, the Idaho teachers union, respondents were 47 percent favorable, up from 39 percent a year ago; and 19 percent unfavorable, down from 22 percent in March of 2010. You can read the IEA's full statement here.

Luna Unfavorability Ratings Soar

Tuesday, May 3, is National Teacher Day, and the first week in May is traditionally marked as Teacher Appreciation Week. Although Idaho teachers have been under siege due to budget cuts and radical school reform laws, Idaho educators can take heart that they’re viewed three times more favorably than State Superintendent Tom Luna. In a recent poll, only 25 percent of likely voters surveyed gave Tom Luna a favorable rating, compared to a 75 percent favorable rating for teachers. Luna’s unfavorability rating skyrocketed from 18 percent negative in March 2010 to 41 percent negative a year later, with 15 percent taking a neutral view/Idaho Education Association news release. More here.

Question: Describe how a teacher had a major impact on your life?

Luna Foes Hire Signature Gatherers

Mike Lanza, chairman of Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform, says paid signature gatherers have joined volunteers to gather signatures to force a referendum on the three reform laws authored by Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. Lanza said he doesn't know how many are working for the company hired for the job with money from the National Education Association on behalf of the Idaho Education Association. "The IEA took this step, and I endorse it, because we are serious about succeeding in this petition drive," Lanza said in an email. "Having paid signature gatherers is not unusual, as you know. They've been hired as insurance. We expect to collect at least 60,000 signatures just through volunteers"/Dan Popkey, Idaho Statesman. More here. (AP file photo)

Question: Do you agree with the move by Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform to pay signature gatherers for referendum and recall drives against Superintendent Tom Luna's reforms?

IEA Sues Luna Public Ed ‘Reforms’

The Idaho Education Association filed a lawsuit in 4th District Court in Ada County today challenging the constitutionality of SB 1108, the bill to remove most collective bargaining rights from Idaho teachers, and related “trailer” bills including one adding an emergency clause to that measure. “Because the Legislature, Gov. Otter and State Superintendent Luna failed to listen to the voices of Idaho citizens and, in the case of SB 1108 and the trailer bills, overstepped their legal bounds, the IEA supports citizen efforts to place referenda on the ballot challenging the Luna laws,” said Sherri Wood, IEA president/Betsy Russell, Eye On Boise. More here.

Keough Questions Task Force Makeup

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint (re: Luna seeks a few good techies): I believe this is the task force that is set out in SB 1184 with a membership list in the bill which is now law. What is interesting, if I understand this post correctly, is that applications & nominations are being accepted which is a different approach than asking each of the groups delinated in that list to pick the people that will represent them. For example, wouldn’t the School Board Association decide amongst themselves who will sit on the Task Force? Does this announcement mean that if you are a member of the School Board Association you can submit your application directly to the Supt. who will choose the person to sit on the Task Force? Again, if this is the Task Force set out in the bill, it also has a prescribed list of duties too. See page 21 beginning on line 8.

Luna Foes Announce Petition Sites

Organizers of the Luna recall/education 'reform' referendum have announced that they'll be gathering petition signatures in more than 35 places throughout Idaho this weekend, includin these 4 North Idaho venues:

  • Sandpoint — Earth Day Festival, Fri, April 22, 4pm – 8pm, Sandpoint Events Center, corner of Pine & Euclid (map)
  • Coeur d'Alene — Fri, April 22, 5pm – 8pm, Downtown Couer d'Alene, 4th and Sherman, Art/Music Walk through Downtown Coeur d'Alene
  • Bonners Ferry — April 23, 10am – 4pm, Boundary County Fairgrounds, Memorial Hall, come and join us to gather signatures at the Earth Day Fair
  • Coeur d'AleneSat, April 23, 10am – 3pm,WhereCoeur d'Alene Public Library, outside the Coeur d'Alene Library to gather signatures at the Earth Day Festival.
  • Complete list here

Luna Seeks A Few Good Techies

The State Department of Education is now accepting applications and nominations for anyone interested in serving on the Students Come First Technology Task Force, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna announced today. Under Senate Bill 1184, the Superintendent of Public Instruction is required to convene a task force to help in implementing the technology components of the Students Come First law.  Specifically, the task force will study and develop plans for the one-to-one ratio of mobile computing devices in high schools/Superintendent Tom Luna news release. More here.

Question: Are you interested in being part of Tom Luna's Students Come First Technology Task Force?

Edit: Blame Otter, Solons For Tax Hike

Don’t blame the Boise School District. Place the blame squarely where it belongs — with the 2011 Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter. Because the state chose to finance public schools on the cheap, cutting K-12 budgets for the third consecutive year, the Boise district will have to grovel to voters. On Aug. 30, the district will ask voters to pass a property tax levy — aimed at keeping teachers on the job and preventing increases in class size. District officials don’t know exactly how much they’ll seek. They’ll figure that out in July, after they have a better sense of the state’s revenue picture/Kevin Richert, Idaho Statesman. More here.

Question: Did any of you really think that there wouldn't be tax hikes to pay for public education when the 2011 Legislature and Gov. Butch Otter embraced Tom Luna's "reform" plan to fund education on the cheap?