Though his name wasnt on the ballot, Gov. Butch Otter said he got the message from voters who soundly rejected education reforms he championed with state Superintendent Tom Luna.
We need to celebrate the independence of the Idaho voter, Otter said. The Idaho voter isnt going to be led anyplace without some rational thought on their own, without some investigation on their own.
Otter said he accepted their verdict repealing three 2011 laws: 57 percent opposed union restrictions in Proposition 1; 58 percent voted no on teacher merit pay in Prop 2; and 67 percent rejected online and laptop mandates in Prop 3.
Im not going to spend any energy or any time saying, What if wed done this and what if wed done that? Otter said.
Instead, the governor said that hes focused on bringing teachers and other stakeholders together to find common ground.
If theres some disagreements that we still have, then we set those aside until we can find the areas where we have agreed, he said.
Opponents of the laws welcomed the entreaty.
No, no gloating, said Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr. This is for Idahos kids and Idahos teachers. Were going to go forward with that and work with everybody and anybody that wants to work with us.
Cyr said shed be calling Luna to invite him to come to discussions about reform.
Luna declined requests for comment Wednesday, issuing only a statement: I am as committed as anyone to finding a way to make this happen.
Asked about his conversations with Luna, Otter said, I sense that he believes this is a new beginning on education reform and that were going to have to go forward.
HE FEELS LIKE HE LET PEOPLE DOWN
Frank VanderSloot, the Idaho Falls businessman who invested $1.6 million in advertising to support the laws, said he spoke with Luna after results became clear late Tuesday.
VanderSloot was at Mitt Romneys headquarters in Boston, horribly disappointed by the presidential race, but also seeking to comfort Luna.
Basically, I tried to give him a hug over the phone, said VanderSloot, who also gave $1 million to Romneys campaign. He was apologetic that we hadnt got it done. He feels like he let people down.
Rumors that Luna might be contemplating resigning with two years left in his second term bounced around the Statehouse on Wednesday. Lunas spokeswoman declined comment.
Asked about such a prospect, Otter said, I know nothing about Toms resigning.
Said VanderSloot: I surely dont think he should. I believe hes been given a bad rap. I saw him work his heart out.
VanderSloot advises that reformers take it slower this time. The bills introduced by Luna in January 2011 became law in two months.
The legislation was aggressive and tried to do too much, too fast, VanderSloot said. I think they need to take a step back and see what pieces of reform people can get behind. Take it a step at a time.
House Speaker Lawerence Denney, R-Midvale, and Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, agree.
There was a reason for a lot of the confusion, Denney said. Maybe smaller bites would have been better.
Hill cautioned against expectations for major action in the 2013 session. The whole point is to get educators involved in the process, he said. Id be surprised if we could come up with any resolution that a majority of the stakeholders would feel good about by January.
A key player in 2011, Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, said some short-term decisions to unwind whats been done are necessary. Goedde, R-Coeur dAlene, had planned to switch to lead the Senate Commerce Committee, but now has doubts.
I dont want to leave the new chairman with the debacle that weve got right now, Goedde said. He suggests pilot projects in classroom technology, more modest reforms on teacher contracts and renewing earlier talks with the union on merit pay.
TURNING THE SHIP
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, was among eight Senate Republicans who voted against the bills. Everybody agrees we need some reform. But its not going to happen overnight. It will take us years to turn the ship, he said.
Cameron had counseled colleagues against moving too fast in 2011 and said the vote affirming his wisdom was bittersweet.
What I feel bad about is if wed collaborated at the very beginning, wed be two years into a reform effort that would be effecting change, he said.
House Minority Leader John Rusche urged the teachers union to prepare to make concessions. You overplay your hand on this and itll be no different than what Superintendent Luna did. Get your eyes off the power and ... focus on what makes sense, said the Lewiston Democrat.
There are reforms that make sense, including how we teach, how we manage, how teachers and schools are supported and mentored and trained. And yes, unfortunately, it will mean how theyre funded. You cant expect above-average performance when youre at the bottom of the barrel as far as the payments for services.
Dan Popkey: 377-6438, Twitter: @IDS_politics