Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna kept quiet last week after voters overwhelmingly rejected the three education laws known as Students Come First.
When the superintendent did at last take questions yesterday, his tone was conciliatory. He stressed the importance of all sides finding agreement.
“I think it’s critical that we work together and identify parts of the legislation that have support amongst all stakeholders,” Luna said.
That message isn’t wholly different from the one expressed by those who campaigned against the laws.
“If we want to talk about real education reform in a serious way, all of the stakeholders need to be involved from the get-go,” said “Vote No” spokesman Brian Cronin on election night as favorable returns trickled in. “The top-down mandate approach simply doesn’t work.”
Despite that similar rhetoric, whether Superintendent Luna and those who opposed his package of education reforms will, in fact, find common ground remains an open question.
Luna plainly expressed yesterday his goal that parts of the laws be resurrected and brought before the Legislature in the session that begins in January.
Mike Lanza, co-founder of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, which marshaled opposition to the Students Come First laws, flatly denounced that proposal.
“Tom Luna should not try to take pieces of his plan and push them through the legislature in the upcoming session,” he said.
Then there’s the idea that’s anathema to Superintendent Luna: that the impasse ought to be resolved via an impartial, investigative panel. That, Luna said, would not constitute good leadership.
“Lacking leadership, then you appoint a blue-ribbon committee or you appoint an interim committee to kick the can down the road,” Luna said. “The kids have to have an education system, our students have to have an education system, that is moving forward to meet their needs.”
Lanza, on the other hand, believes an independent task force is exactly what’s needed. “In order to gain public faith, we think it best to de-politicize it by starting with education leaders, parents, educators and business leaders,” he said. “I would encourage our political leadership to allow us to carry this process through.”
Luna pledged that future education policy meetings will be open to the public and streamed live online. To hear a related audio story, click on the player below.