In a stunning rebuke to Gov. Butch Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, Idahoans on Tuesday repealed the laws that dominated the pairs agenda the past two years.
Idahoans agreed with teachers unions which spent more than $3 million to defeat Propositions 1, 2 and 3 that the reforms Luna called Students Come First and detractors called The Luna Laws went too far.
As GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won a 65 percent Idaho landslide, Otter and Luna both touted as possible Cabinet secretaries in a Romney administration lost their signature issue by large margins.
With 99 percent of all Idaho precincts reporting:
-- 57 percent opposed to restrictions on teachers unions in Prop 1.
-- 58 percent voted no on Prop 2, which paid teacher bonuses based on student test scores and other measures.
-- 67 percent rejected a mandate for laptops and online credits for every Idaho high school student.
The scale of the defeat reached across Idaho.
Voters in 37 of 44 counties rejected all three measures. The seven outliers Adams, Boise, Fremont, Jefferson, Lemhi, Madison and Owyhee are largely rural. Not one of Idahos most populous counties voted for even one of the laws.
The no victory was even larger in Ada County. With all the vote counted, 61 percent opposed Prop 1, 60 percent voted no on Prop 2, and 69 percent rejected Prop 3.
Otter and Luna even lost reliable Republican voters like Carole Robinson of Meridian, who voted for Props 1 and 2 but rejected Prop 3.
I was going to vote yes on 3 and then I read it and it didnt seem like what I was hearing, said Robinson, 50, a home health saleswoman. Parents should provide laptops, not taxpayers. I raised six boys. I know theyre hard on things like that.
We feel great, Mike Lanza, chairman of the Vote No campaign, said late Tuesday. The public doesnt like these laws.
I thought it would be a little closer, said Ken Burgess, manager for the campaign in support of the propositions.
The opposition campaign appeared to have coattails in at least one key legislative district in Southeast Boise, where Democrats unseated two GOP incumbents in rematches from 2010. Democrat Branden Durst defeated Republican Sen. Mitch Toryanski and Democrat Janie Ward-Engelking ousted GOP Rep. Julie Ellsworth.
Legislators who convene in January will have to consider new laws if they want Idaho to limit union clout, fund merit pay or finance technology in classrooms. How they will take on those issues remains to be seen.
Luna spent much of the past two years pushing his plan through the Legislature and then seeking support from Idahoans, including parents. In the weeks before the election, he and Otter unveiled details of a $180 million, 8-year laptop contract with Hewlett-Packard. The cost and details surprised even some advocates.
To counter the union spending, Otter solicited a $250,000 contribution from Albertson heir Joe Scott. First Lady Lori Otter, rumored to be a candidate to succeed Luna, convinced New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to give $200,000.
The major financial supporter of the propositions was Melalueca CEO Frank VanderSloot of Idaho Falls, who spent $1.6 million.
In the end, opponents outspent proponents by about $3.6 million to $2.8 million, based on the latest filings with the Secretary of State.
The three education laws, passed by the Legislature in 2011, contained emergency clauses and took effect in March 2011 upon Otters signature. But the unions and a new parents group put the laws the November ballot after a successful petition drive financed by the National Education Association and its Idaho affiliate, the Idaho Education Association. An effort by another group to gather enough signatures to force a Luna recall vote failed.
The 2012 propositions shared top billing with the presidential race for many Treasure Valley voters Tuesday.
Daniel Howard, 62, Boise, is retired after 30 years in the Army and Marines. He voted against all three propositions, saying teachers are underpaid and schools underfunded.
Weve got basic, fundamental problems in our schools and nobodys addressing them, Howard said, adding that he conceptually supports merit pay and boosting technology. There are some good ideas, but they were badly implemented.
Kathie Corn, a retired teacher, expects shell hear from her colleagues about her vote in favor of Proposition 1, which limits bargaining rights and ends continuing contracts, or tenure.
My friends are going to be mad when I say it, but thats OK, said Corn, 68, who taught in Idaho for 25 years. There were too many teachers who shouldnt be working forever and nothing was done.
But Corn voted no on Prop 3, the laptop and online mandate for high school.
Danton Killian, 52, a Meridian welder, voted no on Props 1 and 3 and yes on 2. He was concerned about the laptop contract and about machines becoming obsolete.
Its a little early to be making rules about what you can do with technology, he said.
Stacey Van Kirk, 41, of Eagle, opposed all three propositions. She didnt like Proposition 2, which hands out bonuses to teachers based in part on how students perform on achievement tests. I do not think teachers should be (incentivized) by teaching to the test. I think they already do that so much and I think kids are already losing, she said.
Rudi Lewis, who works for an education tech start-up, said Lunas process, which excluded teachers and other stakeholders, was flawed.
Its unfair for the superintendent not to involve the key people, said Lewis, 43, of Meridian. There just wasnt the voice of the educator involved in drafting all of those bills. It was special interests and big money.
Kristi Sather-Smith, 61, Boise, a retired college administrator who opposed all three propositions, said technology is important, But there are some very basic needs that need to be worked on first.
Marilyn Large, 66, Boise, a retired legal secretary, also cast three no votes, in part because of input from friends who are teachers. Im very pro-education and I know many teachers who have retired early because they were tired of teaching to the test.
Michael Carrigan, 68, of Boise, a retired salesman, voted for all three measures. I dont appreciate the unions. The teachers have way too much power.
So did Randy Robinson, 53, of Meridian, an unemployed truck driver. Its good that teachers who are up to par get a raise. I think the kids need laptops and I dont mind paying.