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Students Come First opponent joins Balukoff campaign

Democratic gubernatorial candidate A.J. Balukoff added a familiar name to his campaign team Friday: the founder of the group that spearheaded the campaign to vote down Propositions 1, 2 and 3.

Mike Lanza
Mike Lanza

Mike Lanza, co-founder of Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, will join the Balukoff campaign as communications director and education adviser.

“Ever since I began fighting on behalf of public schools three years ago, for me, this has always been about our kids and their future,” Lanza said. “It still is. I have been repeatedly frustrated by the lack of leadership on education shown by our incumbent governor and some in the Legislature.”

Lanza served on Gov. Butch Otter’s 31-member education reform task force. Earlier this week, in a fundraising email, Balukoff said Otter hasn’t pushed aggressively for the task force’s 20 recommendations.

Lanza and Balukoff don’t only share common ground on Propositions 1, 2 and 3 — which were publicly opposed by Balukoff and the rest of the Boise School Board. In 2012, Lanza also co-chaired a campaign pushing for a five-year, $70 million Boise schools supplemental levy.

Here’s the Balukoff news release, in full:

Democratic candidate for governor A.J. Balukoff announced today that Mike Lanza, the Boise parent and education activist who chaired the campaign that repealed the “Luna laws” in 2012, has joined his campaign as its Communications Director and Education Advisor.

“Mike brings grassroots passion about education to this campaign, which is what we are all about and why we’re proud to have him joining our effort in a key position,” Balukoff said. “The repeal of the Luna laws showed that Idaho’s voters want better for our schools than Gov. Otter and the Legislature have offered for the past several years.”

“As I travel around Idaho listening to the concerns of Idahoans, I hear over and over again that they want our state investing more in education. And as someone who got into this entirely as a parent, Mike understands that concern,” Balukoff said.

“Ever since I began fighting on behalf of public schools three years ago, for me, this has always been about our kids and their future,” Lanza said. “It still is. I have been repeatedly frustrated by the lack of leadership on education shown by our incumbent governor and some in the Legislature.”

“I know and greatly admire and respect A.J., and I decided to work for him because he understands that Idaho can only build a strong economy if we are truly committed to investing in education. I’ve decided that working to elect A.J. the next governor of Idaho is the best way I can help improve our schools,” Lanza said.

Lanza co-founded the group Idaho Parents and Teachers Together in January 2011, helping organize the opposition to the Students Come First laws that were proposed by state schools Superintendent Tom Luna and eventually passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. Butch Otter in 2011, despite widespread public opposition. Balukoff, as president of the Boise School District Board of Trustees, was a vocal opponent of the Students Come First laws.

Lanza subsequently chaired the statewide campaign that led to the repeal, by landslide margins, of all three laws in November 2012. He also serves on the governor’s Task Force For Improving Education. Separately, he co-chaired a campaign that led to the March 2012 passage, with 71 percent of the vote, of a five-year, $70 million supplemental levy for the Boise School District. He and his wife have two children in Boise public schools.

Lanza will be the campaign’s primary contact for media.

Kevin Richert is a reporter and blogger at Idaho Education News (idahoednews.org). Kevin is a former Statesman editorial page editor, with 27 year's experience in Idaho journalism.

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