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Eye On Boise

Schools race draws independent spending

You can read my full story here at on how there are now three groups mounting independent campaigns for or against candidates for Idaho schools chief, with the addition of eastern Idaho personal care products firm Melaleuca Inc. The company launched a TV ad campaign in southern Idaho late this week in favor of GOP Supt. Tom Luna, criticizing his Democratic challenger, Stan Olson, and reported today that it's already spent more than $50,000 on TV and radio ads.

That's on top of independent expenditure reports earlier this week from for-profit curriculum company K12 Inc. of Virginia, which is funding a separate $25,000 ad campaign for Luna; and an earlier effort from teachers across the state to form "Educators for Olson," which has spent more than $60,000 since August, mostly on yard signs, and reported spending another $20,835 this week on a mailing.

Frank VanderSloot, Melaleuca chief, said he decided to launch his own anti-Olson ad campaign because he'd heard that the "teachers union" would spend $75,000 "wanting to buy their own guy in the office." Sherri Wood, president of the Idaho Education Association, which is funding the Educators for Olson effort, countered that her group is supported by small-dollar donations from thousands of teachers across the state. "It's very interesting to me that the people who are in the classroom, in the trenches every day, who make very little money, have to battle against big corporate Idaho in order to do what's right by our children," she said.

Olson has called on Luna to condemn K12's involvement in the campaign, calling it "just more proof that Idaho students are not priority number one for Tom, but rather special interest groups who need to turn a profit from our kids and their test scores." Ken Burgess, a spokesman for Luna's campaign, said if Olson thinks Luna should condemn K12's campaign, "then perhaps he ought to do the same for the union bosses that are helping him out."

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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