Ten months ago, members of the education reform task force were on opposite sides in the bitter campaign over Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s education overhaul.
On Friday, Luna and the rest of this task force were on the same side. Vote after vote.
It was a strong show of consensus. A broad coalition of education leaders, business leaders and elected officials voted as one and supported hundreds of millions of dollars worth of education reforms — such as a teacher career ladder plan that would cost $253 million over six years, and technology initiatives with no price tag attached.
The task force approved 21 recommendations in the span of about three hours — and 20 passed unanimously. The exception was a vote endorsing the Idaho Core Standards, and only Madison school Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas voted no.
“I think it speaks volumes for the process,” said Luna, who was widely criticized for his approach in pushing his Students Come First education laws. Even Gov. Butch Otter, a fellow Republican, criticized Luna’s approach to the process — after voters rejected the laws, and at about the same time that Otter put together a task force to take a second look at education reform.
At times, Friday’s meeting seemed like a formality. Many recommendations were passed along to Otter with little or no debate. But Luna and Roger Brown, Otter’s education staffer and the governor’s task force representative, both said the bruising debate occurred in subcommittees. The smaller groups met for the past three months to labor over the recommendations and the wording.
Out of those discussions and disagreements, the subcommittees and the task force found consensus, Luna said afterwards.
But with the task force wrapping up its work Friday, the governor’s office becomes the focal point in the process.
The governor’s budget-writers at the Division of Financial Management aren’t waiting for the task force’s report; they are already crunching numbers on reform ideas, Brown said. Even though the 2014 Legislature doesn’t convene until January, state agencies are already working on 2014-15 budget requests, which means the governor’s staff will need to move quickly to look at these ideas in the overall framework of the budget.
“Four months is a good amount of time, but we have our work cut out for us,” Brown said.
More reading: For a detailed look at Friday’s task force meeting, click on my live blog.