Idaho carried out a sweeping overhaul of its public school system this year and stood out nationally amid a rancorous debate over education around the country. But the man who orchestrated the changes quickly learned that his landmark victory came with a price.
At the height of the firestorm over the new laws, vandals went to schools Superintendent Tom Luna’s home, spray-painted his truck and slashed the tires. He filed a police report after he said one angry activist went to his elderly mother’s house. The anger of hundreds of teachers, parents and students filled the halls of Idaho’s Capitol during hearings this spring.
And now, Luna’s critics want to repeal his education laws and kick him out of office.
“I was driving to work and somebody rolled down their window and flipped me off,” Luna said during an interview on a recent morning at his home in Nampa, a farming and manufacturing town about 20 miles west of the state capital in Boise.
At issue is a polarizing new education package that restricts teacher collective bargaining, eliminates tenure, and arms every high school student with a laptop while Luna also pushes to make online courses a requirement for them to graduate in Idaho. Those who loathe the overhaul, including many educators, say it will undermine teachers, increase class sizes and shift state taxpayer money to for-profit, out-of-state companies that will be tapped to provide online curriculum and laptops to students.