More than a hundred volunteers and many cheering onlookers arrived at the Idaho Statehouse today to deliver 125 boxes of petitions bearing nearly 220,000 verified signatures to Secretary of State Ben Ysursa. The event marks the end of the first phase of a drive to overturn the three education laws pushed by State Superintendent Tom Luna.
Organizers needed to collect at least 47,432 verified signatures on each of three petitions to put the three laws to a citizens’ vote, which can only be held during a biennial general election year. The final tally of verified signatures was 72,664 for Senate Bill 1108; 73,035 for Senate Bill 1110; and 73,486 for Senate Bill 1184. For each of the three petitions, organizers obtained at least 53 percent more signatures than necessary.
Ysursa will now review the signatures – which have already been verified by county clerks statewide – and formally qualify the referenda for the November 2012 ballot. But as he told The Spokesman-Review on June 1, the numbers are well over what was required and “it’s pretty solid that they’re going to be on.” Update June 13: Ysursa certified the signatures with the folllowing final totals: 74,024 for Senate Bill 1108; 74,129 for Senate Bill 1110; and 74,922 for Senate Bill 1184.
“In the nearly two weeks since we passed the original goal, there’s actually been growing interest among people statewide to be sure they were able to sign by the deadline,” said Mike Lanza, chair of Idahoans for Responsible Education Reform. The parent-led committee initiated the petition drives on April 8 and the Idaho Education Association joined the coalition a week later.
Lanza attributed the surge in part to the heavy-handed tactics pursued by Luna as it became clear referenda organizers would make their goal. “Time after time over the past five months, we’ve seen how Tom Luna puts his interests and those of his big-business benefactors ahead of Idaho’s children. Idahoans have seen enough, and we’re eager to vote on these harmful laws next year,” he said.
As the first phase of the campaign ends, the next is just beginning. “We’ve started hearing stories from all over the state about how the new laws and three years of relentless budget cuts are hurting Idaho’s children and killing Idaho jobs,” said IEA President Sherri Wood.
“Idaho educators are grateful for the overwhelming support we’ve seen since these bad ideas were first brought to the Legislature, but we have a long way to go to be sure the majority is finally heard,” Wood said. “Today represents the first big step to make sure that happens in November 2012.”
In addition to remarks from Lanza and Wood, today’s petition delivery event included comments from Mountain View High School teacher Sally Mitchell and state Rep. Brian Cronin. See more here.