Note: This is part 5 of a five-installment series of interviews with Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna. The series began Monday, Dec. 12.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna came under fire during the debate over his education reform package because some critics of the plan say he didn’t mention it during his run for re-election just months prior.
Luna says he has been talking about reforms for years and that his record shows as much.
The Republican superintendent also talked about his plans to fight three referenda that could overturn the laws in his reform packages.
Over the course of the hearings dedicated to Luna’s legislation, several critics and detractors expressed dismay that the superintendent didn’t talk about his plan to reshape Idaho’s public school system in his 2010 re-election run. Dottie Douglas, a mother from Boise, complained as much during a March 1 hearing on the plan on one of the bills. “I am not happy with what has been done with these bills. … Supt. Luna ran for election on unstated premises. He did not present his plan during the election, only after it,” Douglas said, as reported by Betsy Russell of the Spokesman Review.
But Luna feels his record shows his advocacy for all parts of the reform plan prior to the election. “I don’t agree with the statement that this all came out of the blue,” he explained. “Look at the things I talked about. Those were things I talked about over and over and over as a candidate.”
Interestingly enough, Luna did tell IdahoReporter.com about his merit pay system about a week prior to the 2010 election, but he didn’t mention that he would pursue the plan in the 2011 session.
Still, Luna says he and Gov. Butch Otter decided after election to pursue the whole package to avoid a protracted education battle. “The governor and I realized we were going to get just as much resistance if we did one part of reform, as if we did the whole thing, so we decided to do the whole package.”
The Republican superintendent also told IdahoReporter.com that he plans to defend his laws from the referendum vote slated for the November 2012 election. Otter has said essentially the same thing, vowing to personally campaign against the three referenda next year.
Luna can’t use his office to make direct political attacks on the referenda, but says he will instead tell the public the facts of the laws. “The thing that’s on our side is the fact that a year from now, basically, people will be going to the polls and they are going to see the results of Students Come First,” the superintendent said.
The effects of the laws will be felt in a positive way, Luna said, so much so that Idaho voters won’t be willing to overturn his reform laws. He said that the changes he made to the public school system will completely convince parents that his plan was the right one. “I don’t think anyone is going to want to go back to the old system when they make those comparisons,” he said.
It seems Luna may feel somewhat vindicated if his prediction about the defeat of the referenda pans out. “They (voters) are also going to see the doomsday scenario that was painted by those who opposed these laws, never panned out,” he said.
Note: Video for the series by Mitch Coffman, IdahoReporter.com.