DON’T BLAME THE ECONOMY FOR THIS EXODUS
Our take, from Kevin Richert’s column: State schools superintendent Tom Luna blames the economic downturn for the exodus of Idaho teachers — while the Idaho Education Association blames Luna’s Students Come First laws. The reality is more complicated.
Post Register, Idaho Falls
For many in education, “Luna” has become a four-letter word. What else could explain more than 3,000 Idaho educators fleeing the profession in the two years since their boss, Luna, strong-armed through the Legislature a reform package that increases class sizes, shreds collective bargaining rights and forces upon them a merit pay system many view as arbitrary and unlikely to make up for the salary reductions they have experienced in an age of budget slashing and income tax cuts for the rich?
Luna says his Students Come First reforms are not to blame for the exodus. No, it’s the economy’s fault. But that argument defies the numbers and common sense.
According to the data released by Luna’s shop, of those 1,884 who left this year, 127 were fired and 143 got laid off. A far greater number, 957, left for “personal reasons.” The whole blame-the-economy argument seems counterintuitive. During a tight employment market, aren’t people more inclined to hold onto jobs, even if they don’t like the boss?
Not in teaching. Not in Idaho. Not when the man elected to lead the public schools wages war on “union thugs” and “union bosses,” ignoring the fact that the IEA is not made up of some back-East faction plotting our demise, but your friends, your family members and the kindly woman teaching your 10-year-old. Not when teacher pay is lousy. Not when Idaho is 50th in per-pupil spending. Not when, as was recently discovered by Idaho’s longtime chief economist, Mike Ferguson, the state’s citizens are spending 23 percent less of their personal income on public schools than they did a decade ago.
Luna can spin this all he wants, but the numbers don’t lie: 3,160 teachers gone in two years is an epidemic. Unless, of course, that was your goal all along.
MELALEUCA’S BOSS GIVES UP ON FACTS
JEERS ... to Melaleuca President and CEO Frank VanderSloot. Unable to base his defense of the Luna laws on fact, he has now resorted to supposition.
At issue is the $38 million in teacher merit pay Luna is holding hostage against classroom teachers who have the temerity to stand up to this bully.
That money is part of the school overhaul package Luna inflicted upon Idaho’s students, teachers, parents and taxpayers — until citizens rebelled and called for a referendum vote on Nov. 6.
Threaten Luna, repeal his laws and the merit pay goes away. But he’s been bobbing and weaving to make that self-serving story stick. Initially, Luna said he couldn’t release the dollars until Nov. 15, which would fall after the election.
Turns out the 2012 Legislature gave him authority to distribute the money anytime up to Nov. 15.
That’s where VanderSloot entered the picture. With a series of full-page newspaper advertisements, he reiterated the argument that repealing the law on Nov. 6 would tie Luna’s hands on Nov. 15.
Not so, said Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, who noted the official canvassing and formal implementation of Prop 2 wouldn’t come until Nov. 21 — six days after Luna is legally compelled to turn the money over to Idaho school districts.
‘IDAHO 100’ LIST WILL PROVOKE THOUGHT
CHEERS ... to Randy Stapilus and Marty Peterson. Their new book, “Idaho 100: The people who most influenced the Gem State,” makes it clear the 43rd state was not preordained.
For instance, there’s Wetxiwillis (No. 10), a Nez Perce woman who persuaded her tribe to spare Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
“It’s not a reach to suggest that what’s now Idaho, and points west, might today be part of Canada if Lewis and Clark had not returned,” they write.
Some names are obvious. Others are not. First place goes to Lloyd Adams, a Rexburg political boss who held sway for a half-century. Also on the list is Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler at No. 88 — two places ahead of former Idaho Gov. Phil Batt.