On February 22, the Idaho Education Association filed a public records request in the wake of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna’s remark to the Idaho Statesman that he had confidential sources he consulted in the creation of his plan to overhaul education in Idaho.
In a February 20 story about his long, extensive ties to the online education industry, Luna told the Statesman’s Dan Popkey that – in forming the plan – he had consulted with “people that are leaders in education in Idaho that I trust, have confidence in and bounce a lot of ideas off of” but that he’d keep their names to himself.
Luna’s staff delivered more than 100 pages of documents to the IEA last week. Only about 20 pages date from the period after Luna briefed the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee in November – a meeting at which he gave no hint of his plans to restructure Idaho education.
Luna held a flurry of meetings in the two weeks leading up to his unveiling the plan on January 12. On December 29, he and Gov. Butch Otter met in North Idaho with Sen. John Goedde and Rep. Bob Nonini. Another meeting with legislative leadership was held January 6.
About a dozen superintendents got a briefing on the legislation January 11. The same group met met January 4 to discuss the “Colorado Growth Model Group.” Luna also held private meetings with Caldwell Schools Superintendent Roger Quarles and Nampa Schools Superintendent Gary Larsen.
Representatives of the Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho State Board of Education were invited to the January 4 briefing and also received separate briefings on January 10. The Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence had a briefing from Department of Education staff at its meeting the morning of January 11. The Idaho Education Association – which represents most of Idaho’s classroom teachers – was not invited to any of the meetings in late December or early January.
In all cases, the stakeholders described in the papers were well known and included people whose identities Luna had no reason to keep confidential. “We are left to wonder whether there were other meetings with his ‘confidential’ confidants for which we did not receive documentation or which Mr. Luna and his staff did not record,” said IEA General Counsel John Rumel.
“Whatever the case, either Mr. Luna has not produced all documents relevant to the IEA’s request or he wrote the plan with even less guidance than he claimed to have from his trusted sources – and without any input whatsoever from the very people who would be asked to implement his ideas in Idaho’s classrooms.”
Luna has been criticized not just for the haste with which he cobbled together his plan but the fact he did not talk about it while seeking reelection last year. He and his staff consistently reply that “anyone paying attention” during his first term would recognize the ideas outlined in his plan.
The papers delivered to the IEA include extensive notes and agendas from meetings of the Education Alliance of Idaho and Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence dating back to 2008. The IEA was involved in both organizations and attended many meetings recorded in these papers.
“None of the discussions with the Education Alliance or IBCEE involved increasing class sizes, mandating online courses, or purchasing ‘mobile computing devices’ at the cost of a thousand education jobs,” IEA President Sherri Wood said today.” None of the discussions touched on taking away teachers’ collective bargaining or due process rights. Pay for performance was the only aspect of what became the Luna plan that we discussed, and the IEA has been adamant that it only be pursued when new funding is available.”