Little, Luna, nine Idaho lawmakers at Jeb Bush’s ed conference in Boston

Lt. Gov. Brad Little, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and a bipartisan group of Idaho legislators are in Boston today for the sixth annual National Summit of the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

“It’s all about what’s taking place in public education,” said Little. “I’m just here to try and learn something.”

The Thursday-Friday meeting at the Sheraton Boston Hotel is hosted by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who supported Luna’s ill-fated “Students Come First” reforms.

Idaho Business for Education CEO and President Rod Gramer said the foundation headed by Bush paid the expenses for 10 elected officials invited by IBE: Little, Sens. Cherie Buckner-Webb, D-Boise, and Dean Cameron, R-Rupert; and Reps. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, Reed DeMourdant, R-Eagle, Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, Donna Pence, D-Gooding,  Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls,  Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree, and Janie Ward-Engelking, D-Boise.

Officials from 47 states are attending at the foundation’s expense. Luna also was attending, but not at the invitation of IBE.

The summit’s sponsors are foundations and corporations, including the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, ExxonMobil, State Farm, Travelers and Target. Several sponsors do business in education, including Luna’s longtime ally K12, Scantron, Intel, Pearson, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Scholastic.

The agenda includes strengthening teaching of reading, digital learning, making high school diplomas worth the investment, and a session titled “Winning the Kitchen Table Conversation: The Art of Communicating Education Reform.”

Luna met with a considerable communications problem last year when voters repealed the technology mandates in Students Come First with 67 percent of the vote. Voters also rejected restrictions on teachers’ unions and a pay for performance plan for teachers.

Bush endorsed Luna’s “Students Come First” laws in February 2011 and returned in June to speak to Luna’s Students Come First Technology Task Force, which was working to implement the laws.

I asked Gramer for a few words on IBE’s interest in the summit.

He wrote:

This national conference on education gives public officials a chance to hear what other states are doing to enhance the education of their young people. With the Governor’s Task Force Recommendations we have an historic opportunity to strengthen the education system in Idaho. Many of the ideas discussed at the conference dovetail with the recommendations of the Task Force.

There is a strong focus here on the importance of the Idaho Core Standards to help prepare our young people for post-secondary education, the workforce and life. That’s because the standards give them important skills such as critical thinking, the ability to analyze information, draw conclusions and communicate in writing or orally.

As you know, we are implementing those standards this fall. It is important for policymakers to understand how important those standards are to the education of our young people and to the health of the Idaho economy. Those points are being made here by policymakers, education leaders and business leaders from across the U.S.

Conferences like this give those interested in education a chance to consider best practices, expand their perspective and gather new ideas. It also inspires them to go back home and do whatever they can to help our kids excel academically and in life.

Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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