From 150 people lining Main Street in Hailey to more than a thousand crowded into Capitol Park in Boise, educators, parents, and students said – yet again – on Presidents’ Day that Idahoans are overwhelmingly opposed to Senate Bills 1108, 1110, and 1113.
The three bills are on the Senate’s third reading calendar for tomorrow, but reports late today indicated the bills may be pulled back. Reporting in the Spokesman-Review, Betsy Z. Russell wrote:
Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, who chairs the committee, met with representatives of three key education groups Monday – teachers, school administrators and school board members – for more than six hours, and came out with a long list of possible changes to the bill.
Goedde said he wasn’t trying to reach a consensus but wants to “make whatever moves forward a better bill.”
The move came as parents, students, teachers and others rallied across the state Monday against the plan; more than a thousand people turned out for a rally in a Boise park across from the state Capitol, and in Coeur d’Alene, more than 200 marched down Sherman Avenue through downtown amid occasional snow flurries. Well-attended rallies also were held in eight other cities across the state.
The rallies got lawmakers’ attention, at least for a day. But Idaho Education Association Executive Director Robin Nettinga, who attended Goedde’s meeting on behalf of the IEA, said that nothing discussed in that meeting begins to make the bills palatable in any way to IEA members.
Whether the trio of bills reaches the Senate floor Tuesday, later this week, or next week, Monday’s rallies sent another statewide message of strong opposition to Luna’s legislation. The rallies came in the wake of two bombshell news articles over the weekend. On Friday, John Miller of the Associated Press reported on the financial ties between the Albertson Foundation and K12, the company that runs the Idaho Virtual Academy. On Sunday, the Idaho Statesman ran a front-page story by Dan Popkey detailing how Tom Luna has been working for nearly a decade with leaders of the for-profit online education industry – many of whom have backed his political career – on the “bones” of a plan that he did not reveal during his re-election campaign.
Anger over those stories – and over last week’s passage of the bills in the Senate Education Committee—drove more than a thousand people to Boise to rally across from the Statehouse. Rallies in Twin Falls, Nampa, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho Falls, Pocatello, and Lewiston (on Saturday) each drew hundreds more, and even in smaller cities including Moscow and Hailey, more than 100 people turned out on the holiday to speak out. An estimated 50 people gathered at the Payette Community Center for the day's last official event.
Parents, educators, and students will continue to watch the Legislature to see what happens. IEA leaders and staff are conferring daily to determine next steps. Later this week, we’ll be releasing results of a survey that shows that Idaho educators (IEA members and non-members alike) have not been swayed by full-page ads , an op-ed by First Lady Lori Otter (a former teacher and principal), or any other sort of propaganda on the Luna plan’s behalf.
To everyone who attended a rally today, thank you for your passion and participation. Check the Hotline and the IEA Twitter feed during the day this week to get breaking news, and talk with your local leaders to learn what’s planned in your district.
Some more news coverage:
KTVB in Boise had scenes from several rallies statewide including Boise, Hailey, Middleton, and Pocatello.
Dustin Hurst shot this video of an energetic 17-year-old Jonny Saunders of Timberline High School speaking against the plan in Boise. It's a must see.
The Idaho Statesman put up a photo gallery from the Capitol Park rally.