Mike Lanza, a Boise parent who successfully battled against Students Come First reforms last fall, says Gov. Butch Otter’s eight-month long education task force produced proposals that went beyond his highest expectations.
“The task force has shown what kind of ideas can emerge when everyone with a stake in public schools gets an equal seat at the table, rather than the state’s political leadership alone calling the shots,” Lanza wrote to supporters of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, a group he co-founded to defeat Luna’s proposals. He is a member of the task force.
“I was consistently impressed by the respect with which members treated one another, and how difficult it was for bad ideas to stay afloat in that atmosphere.”
A 31-member task force of parents, educators, business people and government leaders, formed by Otter after voters trounced Luna’s ed reforms in a referendum, called for the Legislature to give back $82 million in operational money it cut from schools since 2008.
The task force recommended improving teacher salaries, at a cost of $250 million, while also increasing evaluation for instructors.
“I know some people wish the task force had gone further,” Lanza wrote. “Idaho rightly had high expectations for it. But reaching consensus in a large, diverse group isn’t easy. And without the participation of all stakeholders and representation from legislators, nothing would happen.
“Who would have predicted all that has happened since state education Superintendent Tom Luna dropped his Students Come First proposals on the Legislature in January 2011? I certainly did not plan to become an education activist and spend hundreds of hours of my time on these issues.
“But after Idaho voters repealed the ‘Luna laws’ last November, it didn’t feel to me like we were finished. Defeating bad ideas wasn’t enough; we needed to take the next step and get behind some good education policy.
“Now we have the kind of opportunity that comes up once every 20 years or so. We are not done.”
He encouraged supporters to contact lawmakers with their support for the recommendations.