Thursday, February 24, 2011

Idaho Senate Approves Major Parts of Students Come First Reform Package

BOISE – The Idaho Senate today approved two major parts of the Students Come First reform package. On a 20-15 vote, the Senate passed Senate Bills 1108 and 1110.

“This is a great day for Idaho, and its children,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “With these two bills, we have reformed the way we pay teachers, and we have reformed the way school districts can operate by returning authority and flexibility to locally elected school boards. Next, we must reform Idaho's classrooms so all students learn in a 21st century classroom and are prepared to succeed in the world that awaits them.”

The Students Come First reform package has been presented to the Idaho Legislature in three different bills: Senate Bills 1108, 1110, and 1113. Senate Bill 1108 returns authority and flexibility to the locally elected school boards by phasing out tenure, limiting collective bargaining to salaries and benefits, tying teacher and administrator evaluations to student achievement, and giving Idaho parents input on teacher performance evaluations. Senate Bill 1110 implements a pay-for-performance plan that will recognize and reward Idaho’s teachers for working in hard-to-fill positions, taking on leadership responsibilities, and working in a school that shows academic growth. Teachers could earn up to $8,000 in bonuses a year under this plan.

Senate Bill 1113, which will likely be taken up in Senate Education Committee next week, will reform the classroom and better prepare Idaho kids for the 21st century by stabilizing the state’s public schools budget, restoring teacher pay, infusing an unprecedented amount of technology in the classroom, and requiring students to take online courses before graduation.

For more information, please visit


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

‘Positive Step’ Forward for Education Reform in Idaho

Today, Chairman of the Senate Education Committee Senator John Goedde asked that Senate Bill 1110 and Senate Bill 1108, the pay-for-performance and labor relations portions of the Students Come First education reform package, be held on the Senate calendar until Thursday when they will be taken up by the full Senate.  Senate Bill 1113 will return to the Senate Education Committee for further improvements.

“This is another positive step toward reforming education in Idaho,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. “Two of the Students Come First bills will be taken up on the Senate floor tomorrow. If there are improvements that can be made to Senate Bill 1113, we are open to those ideas. This is how the legislative process works, and I look forward to working with the Senate to pass this reform package.”

~ Melissa M.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Guest Editorial from First Lady Lori Otter

The following is a guest editorial released today by First Lady Lori Otter.

By First Lady Lori Otter

Whether you have been at the head of the classroom or in a desk on the other end, you know the importance of quality teaching. It makes all the difference.
With the help of a great teacher, a struggling student can excel. Under an ineffective teacher, that student may never catch up. We know this from our own school experiences, as well as extensive research.
The teacher is and always will be the most important factor in student success.

If we truly want to put students first, we have to make sure we invest in Idaho’s teachers. That’s exactly what the Students Come First plan does.

As a former teacher, I am excited about the possibilities this plan provides for great teachers now and in the future.
Some have claimed this plan “devalues teachers.” That couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s the only option that actually invests in teachers.
Right now, our state faces an unprecedented funding cliff. We cannot cut our schools more. We cannot raise taxes on hard-working Idahoans. Taxpayers and parents want the government to figure how to do more with less. Students Come First gets us there.
Through this plan, Idaho will save $500 million over the next five years – all of which gets reinvested back into the classroom.
Half of this money goes directly into teacher pay. While other states are cutting teacher salaries, Idaho is working to put $250 million into raising pay for teachers, restoring the funding grid, and finally rewarding excellence in the classroom.
Pay-for-performance will be in addition to the base salary. Why am I excited about this? Well, if I was still in the classroom, I could earn up to $8,000 in bonuses a year. We have great teachers all across our state. It’s time we showed our appreciation.
Teachers also will have access to advanced technology through an unprecedented $53 million investment in hardware, software and professional development. Every year, teachers vie for technology grants for their classrooms. Now, this will be commonplace in every school. Technology provides many opportunities for teachers to work smarter, not harder.

Above all, the state of Idaho will establish a professional, quality working environment for educators. From now on, teachers will be evaluated on their skills and performance, not longevity. Evaluations will be fair and equitable. Student achievement will be measured based on academic growth, not solely on proficiency. All professional development will focus on what students and teachers need.
These are the things highly effective teachers have been demanding for years. I heard it as a classroom teacher, at the administrative level, as a citizen, and the First Lady of Idaho. Through Students Come First, we can finally provide teachers with the tools they need to help raise student achievement.

The time is now. In the words of Gabriela Mistral (1945 Nobel Laureate in Literature): “Many things can wait; children cannot. Today, their bones are being formed, their blood is being made, and their senses are being developed. To Them, we cannot say ‘tomorrow.’ Their name is Today.”

Let’s work together to make sure our Students Come First…Today.


Idaho State Superintendent Tom Luna Appointed to National Assessment Governing Board

The National Assessment Governing Board released the following news release today.

WASHINGTON—Idaho State Superintendent Tom Luna has been appointed to the National Assessment Governing Board to serve until September 2014, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced today. The state chief will help set policy for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly known as The Nation's Report Card.

Luna, a longtime education and business leader whose work has encompassed a variety of areas including accountability, achievement standards and school choice, will serve on its reporting and dissemination committee. His term officially started Feb. 16 and will end on Sept. 30, 2014.
"We are looking forward to Superintendent Tom Luna's contributions," Secretary Duncan said. "I know that his commitment to improving education for our children will help us as we work toward ensuring that all students are meeting grade-level standards and are ready for postsecondary education or careers. He'll make a great addition to the team."
In overseeing The Nation's Report Card, the 26-member Governing Board—a group of governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators and researchers, business representatives, and members of the general public—determines subjects and content to be tested and the achievement levels for reporting scores, and works to inform the public about the results. NAEP makes objective information on student performance available to policy-makers and the public at the national, state, and local levels, and has served an important role in evaluating the condition and progress of American education since 1969.
Before becoming Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2007, Luna had a career in business for more than 25 years and served in education leadership positions at the local, state and national levels, including as a local school board chair. He was appointed under former Governor Phil Batt to lead the Idaho Achievement Standards Commission, and under former Governor Dirk Kempthorne to chair the Idaho Assessment and Accountability Commission. The work of these two commissions resulted in the state's Achievement Standards and Idaho Standards Achievement Test.
"For many years, Tom has demonstrated a dedication to improving the quality of education for students, while being forward-thinking in pursuing initiatives to adapt to quickly changing times and needs," said Governing Board Chair David Driscoll.
While in office, Luna has focused his efforts on more than a dozen areas that include parental involvement, teacher performance and evaluation, school nutrition, and academic standards. When Luna first took office in 2007, just 26 percent of Idaho schools met the academic goals the state set, known as Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). In 2010, 62 percent of schools met AYP.

Some of Luna's initiatives include creating the Division of Innovation and Choice to expand choices in public education through public charter schools, magnet schools, open enrollment, virtual education, and dual credit; and the Middle Level Credit System, which fosters more accountability in the middle grades and works to ensure Idaho students are prepared to go on to high school and beyond.

Other efforts include the Classroom Enhancement Package, which provides additional funding for textbooks, remediation programs, and a supplies and materials stipend for every classroom teacher; the Rural Education Initiative to find solutions to the unique problems facing rural schools; and the Idaho Math Initiative that seeks to raise student achievement in math education across all grades through a combined with teachers, parents, the business community.
From 2003 to 2005, Luna traveled the country on behalf of then-President Bush and Secretary of Education Rod Paige, serving as a senior advisor and focusing on rural education and school choice. He was elected state superintendent in November 2006, and was re-elected to a second term four years later.
Luna currently serves as president-elect of the Council of Chief State School Officers, a nationwide organization that brings together the top education leaders from every state. He will serve as the group's president beginning in 2012.
# # # #

The National Assessment Governing Board is an independent, bipartisan board whose members include governors, state legislators, local and state school officials, educators, business representatives, and members of the general public. Congress created the 26-member Governing Board in 1988 to oversee and set policy for NAEP.

The Nation's Report Card is the only nationally representative, continuing evaluation of the condition of education in the United States and has served as a national yardstick of student achievement since 1969. Through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), The Nation's Report Card informs the public about what America's students know and can do in various subject areas, and compares achievement data between states and various student demographic groups.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Senate Education Committee Approves Students Come First Reform Package

The Senate Education Committee today approved three pieces of legislation that make up the Students Come First reform package presented by Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.

“This is the first step, but a very important step,” Superintendent Luna said. “I am pleased and excited to see this reform plan move forward because it will stabilize our public schools budget and truly make sure Idaho students come first.”

The Students Come First plan is a comprehensive plan to improve Idaho’s public education system by ensuring we have a customer-driven system that educates more students at a higher level with limited resources.

For the past two years, the state has cut revenues at the state level but has done nothing to reduce the costs at the local district level. Under Students Come First, the state will spend what it actually has differently in order to put our public education system back on firm financial footing. It will not just reduce revenues at the state level but also reduces the costs our local districts must shoulder so we can stabilize the public schools budget and direct more money into the classroom, where it’s needed most. With the cost savings, the state will raise teacher pay, implement a system to reward excellence in the classroom, and make unprecedented investments in technology.

The three bills now will go to the full Senate for approval. For more information, please visit

Monday, February 14, 2011

Governor, Superintendent Welcome Changes to Students Come First

After a week of public testimony, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna presented changes to Students Come First today, in the form of three pieces of revised legislation. All the changes are based on citizen feedback heard in the Senate Education Committee public hearings, and from legislators. 

“I am both pleased and encouraged by the actions being taken in the Senate Education Committee,” Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter said.  “I believe we proposed meaningful legislation to the Legislature.  The changes, based on input from the public and members of the Senate, have only enhanced the package.”

“Over the past week, we have seen our legislative process in action as many Idahoans came to the Statehouse to discuss education reform. The public testimony we heard was not window dressing. We gathered several good ideas and have made changes based on this input,” Superintendent Luna said.

The Students Come First plan is a comprehensive plan for improving Idaho’s public education system by ensuring it is customer-driven and educates more students at a higher level with limited resources.

For the past two years, the State of Idaho has cut revenues at the State level but has done nothing to reduce costs at the local school district level.  Under Students Come First, the State will take a different approach in order to put our public education system back on firm financial footing. It will not just reduce revenues at the State level, but also reduce the costs that our local districts must shoulder so we can stabilize the public schools budget and direct more money into the classroom, where it’s needed most.

While pleased with the transparency of the legislative process, Governor Otter was critical of those unwilling to join in the discourse. 

“Senate opponents of the legislation listened to the same testimony we did.  We were open for discussion to make the package more perfect and we got not one idea back in return,” he said. “The only thing we’ve heard is raise taxes, and that does not serve Idaho’s students or Idaho taxpayers.”

Here are highlights of the proposed changes to the Students Come First legislation:

Digital learning:
  • Students will be required to take four credits online any time during high school. That’s down from the original proposal of eight online credits.  Students must complete at least 46 total credits to meet minimum State graduation requirements.
  • To meet the State requirement, school districts can offer a blended model, which includes both online and in-person instruction as long as the majority of the instruction is online. Districts can meet the digital learning requirement through the Idaho Education Network, an online provider such as the Idaho Digital Learning Academy, or a blended model.
  • The State Board of Education will develop standards for a digital citizenship course that local school districts can offer students.
Mobile computing devices:
  • Until a high school reaches a 1:1 ratio, the local school district will have the flexibility to determine when students are given mobile computing devices in high school, instead of requiring mobile computing devices by grade level.
  • The local school district will own the mobile computing device and will determine whether students are given the device upon graduation. 
Great Teachers and Leaders:
  • The State will increase the minimum teacher salary to $30,000 and implement a mechanism for raising the minimum salary in the future as the State appropriates additional dollars for teacher pay.
  • The State will require local school boards to conduct at least one performance evaluation before deciding not to renew an employee’s contract. 
Learn more on Students Come First

~ Melissa M.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

IBCEE Endorses Students Come First

The following is a news release from the Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence (IBCEE), which represents more than 80 Idaho CEOs, presidents and managing partners:

The Idaho Business Coalition for Education Excellence (IBCEE) announced today its strong support for the Students Come First education reform plan proposed by Governor Butch Otter and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna.

“We have long encouraged meaningful reform of Idaho’s education system,” said Skip Oppenheimer, Chairman and CEO of Oppenheimer Companies, Inc. and IBCEE Chair.  “We believe the package of education reform proposals outlined by Governor Otter and State Superintendent Luna in the Students Come First plan is a bold and innovative step toward such reform.  At the same time, we recognize that some specifics of the plan may need to be adjusted and that other good ideas may emerge that would improve it.”

In IBCEE’s view, pursuing the status quo in providing education to Idaho's students is an unsustainable approach, both financially and for the future economic success of our state.  The only way to improve and strengthen our education system is to innovate and eliminate inefficiencies.  To do nothing at this juncture would ensure Idaho’s education system would deteriorate and weaken, at the very point in history that it needs to be strengthened and enhanced.

IBCEE also recognizes that several elements of the plan are controversial.  Specific proposals have attracted both strong adherents and opponents, with compelling arguments on both sides. “As we debate specific issues, we strongly encourage all sides to keep the end in sight:  the most effective, efficient education system for Idaho, given the resources available,” Oppenheimer said.

IBCEE wholeheartedly supports the notion that the most important entity in the education equation is the teacher.  “We recognize and salute the many dedicated, talented, and highly effective teachers who provide an enormously important service to our students,” Oppenheimer said.  “This plan ensures that Idaho students will spend the vast majority of their time in the classroom with a classroom teacher. In the short run, elements of this plan that require change will make more demands on students, teachers, parents, and administrators.”

“We must come together to make these changes happen,” Oppenheimer said.  “By working together, Idaho will have a system that will be better for all, and make our common objectives more attainable.”

“We support systemic change in Idaho education now,” he said. “We strongly support the Students Come First education reform plan. And we are prepared to sit with all stakeholders to facilitate the continued development and implementation of details of the plan.”

IBCEE is a business coalition comprised of more than 80 Idaho CEOs, presidents and managing partners.  It was officially organized in 2003 and incorporated as a 501c3 nonprofit in 2005.  Our purpose is twofold:  To facilitate the work of key stakeholders to achieve education improvement, and to advocate on behalf of key education improvement efforts.

The founding members recognized a need for business leaders to provide positive advocacy to enhance the quality of education in Idaho.  The group believes in the critical importance of high quality education to students’ ability to be effective citizens and highly competent participants in the international economic environment.

IBCEE embraces a philosophy of working closely with education professionals to support, in a constructive manner, selected education initiatives.  We invite the participation of resource partners to help frame direction and generate ongoing input and advice.