During the next several months, we’ll get a chance to evaluate Tom Luna’s record as superintendent of public instruction. As a prelude to that evaluation, it’s important to recall that Luna made accountability, local control and education choice the central themes of his 2006 election bid.
While not included in his campaign rhetoric of 2010, Luna’s “education reform” was the mission in 2011, concluding with the failure of three education reform measures at the ballot box in November 2012.
It’s easy to conclude that his education reform plans were well intentioned, but poorly scripted. He has acknowledged that he didn’t seek broad support for his proposals prior to unveiling them. Thus, he ran into the buzz-saw of opposition from the Idaho Education Association, the major media and, ultimately, the voters.
On the funding front, K-12 general fund appropriations were cut 13.2 percent in 2010, decreased by 1.4 percent in 2011 and were up 0.8 percent in 2012.
But now, we’re back to living large, with big dollars for public schools and little expectation for return on investment. Luna requested 5.8 percent increase for schools last legislative session—the Legislature approved 5.1 percent—and Luna has pitched a 6.9 percent increase for the coming session.
So now, we seem to be in a typical Republican pattern of promised reform, followed by the attempted appeasement of critics and ending with the entire debate about education support married to simply spending more money.
Luna’s legacy will soon be open for debate. For now, his parting shot is more concerning: He’s created an environment where the 2015 Legislature, the governor and Luna’s successor will all be vying to outspend one another, instead of doing the hard and important work of fixing what’s really wrong with our public education system.
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