People all across Idaho sat down after work Monday night, ready for dinner or some down time with the family. The phone rang: It was Gov. Butch Otter, with a personal (albeit recorded) invitation to take part in a telephone town hall about education reform!
Finally, someone was ready to listen and maybe even take your question. That is, unless you pressed the button for being against “against” reform. Then you were either disconnected or sent to the back of the room, so to speak. Dan Popkey reported on IdahoStatesman.com today:
Monday night’s forum was paid for by the state’s largest business lobby, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry. Otter was joined by the author of the “Students Come First” plan, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and the two chairmen of the Legislature’s education committees, Sen. John Goedde and Rep. Bob Nonini, both Republicans from Coeur d’Alene. …
Liz Ratcliff, a former Ada County Democratic Party chairwoman and former teacher, said she was on the call and pressed the button on her phone saying she opposed reform because “that’s a ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ question.” …
After answering the prompt saying she wanted to ask a question, Ratcliff said she was told to wait for a beep. But she said she heard nothing for about five minutes and then hung up. “Nothing was happening. I couldn’t hear what was going on.”
The IEA got dozens of calls and emails today from people reporting similar experiences.
In other news, members of the Senate Majority caucused today to discuss possible changes to the Luna bills. Betsy Z. Russell reported at SpokesmanReview.com that the discussions centered on class sizes:
Senate Republicans gathered in an hour-long closed-door caucus Tuesday on the bills, and afterward, the caucus, which includes all but seven of the 35 senators, asked its members to weigh in on “what is, in fact problematic” in the three-bill reform package. “I don’t know the answer,” Senate Majority Leader Bart Davis, R-Idaho Falls, told the Idaho Press Club at a Tuesday luncheon.
Options include pulling one or more of the bills back to the Senate Education Committee; printing new bills; and sending one or more of the bills to the Senate’s amending order, where any senator may offer amendments.
“There are active, ongoing conversations with both the governor, the superintendent and the stakeholders,” Davis said. “We are trying to find the changes that we believe are necessary in order to secure passage of the legislation. We believe that what the Senate is trying to do is put together an education bill that the Senate has confidence in, and that’s what we will do over the next several days.”
So Idahoans remain in limbo, waiting to see if we’re really being heard, or whether we’ve been disconnected and just don’t know it yet.
Also see this Hotline post from earlier today: The IEA has filed a public records request asking Tom Luna to divulge his list of “confidential” contacts with whom he consulted while developing his legislation.