The Associated Press named education reform battles as the top Idaho story of 2011. Reporters wrote:
(State Superintendent Tom) Luna unveiled the plan he called Students Come First just two days after lawmakers convened in Boise for the 2011 Legislature, and some jaws dropped as he detailed measures to limit teacher collective bargaining and arm every high school student with a laptop while requiring them to take online courses.
The battle lines were quickly drawn, with teachers union leaders decrying the plan as an attack on their profession and Luna insisting that with dwindling funds for public education, the time to make big changes was now.The laws that emerged represent some of the biggest changes to Idaho's public education system in recent memory, elbowing out room for Idaho on a national stage even as state legislatures across the country tackled education policy, including union-busting bills.
The Idaho Education Association won a “Spud” for its pluck in standing up to Luna's stealth attack on public schools. In the December 28-January 3 issue of Boise Weekly under a subhead of “Students Come Wholesale,” Bill Cope first singled out the reform measures, Luna, and his big-money backers as “Duds” before awarding the article's first Spud to the IEA as follows:
“We're offended by the idea we haven't been putting students first all along.” –Sherri Wood, former IEA president
The vast majority of Idaho parents knew that they and their kids were being forced into something they neither asked for nor wanted with Luna's education reforms. Yet, if not for the Idaho Education Association, they would have had no platform, no organization or unity from which to launch a counteroffensive. Had it not been for the IEA's stiff resistance, we'd have been left to like it or lump it.
Of course, the IEA had the backing of an irate public. As IEA President Penni Cyr wrote on the Facebook page for Idaho Parents and Teachers Together, “As 2011 draws to a close, I want to thank everyone for all the work they did to gather signatures placing the three education laws on the 2012 Ballot for a vote of the people. Through the efforts of many parents and students and educators, Idahoans will have an opportunity to let policy makers know what they really think of these education 'reform' laws. Thank you all for a job well done.”
In other year-end news, Washington Post reporter Emma Brown – in the wake of a hard-hiitting New York Times story about for-profit online education company K12 Inc. published December 12 – noted that it was local reporters all over the country (including Dan Popkey of the Idaho Statesman) who first began asking questions about K12 Inc. and other companies seeking to profiteer from public education.
For his part, Popkey ended 2011 with a column biddding good riddance to “a dismal year,” one that included “a tragic absence of collaboration as Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna and Gov. Butch Otter rammed high school technology mandates through an insufficiently curious Legislature,” with actions leading to “teacher layoffs and pay-to-play for school athletes, four-day school weeks and sustained, addlepated shortsightedness in underinvesting in public and higher education.”