Several people have requested a copy of Superintendent Luna's remarks from this morning. Here is a copy of his prepared remarks from Monday, January 27, 2014.
Over the past six months, I have not spoken to a reporter or constituent without getting the question about my plans for re-election. So I am here today to answer that question. In 2007, I proudly took office as Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, and I was elected again in 2010. Surrounded by a dedicated family, hard-working staff and the most talented educators in the country, we have accomplished a lot in the past seven years.
When we came into office, only 26% of our schools were meeting the academic goals we had in place for them. In just a few short years, that number climbed to 66%.
Idaho was operating under the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind. We are now out from under many of those onerous provisions and now have a new accountability system: an Idaho accountability system built by Idahoans. Our new Five-Star Rating System is in its third year and based on multiple measures, including academic growth. Our schools are showing improvement because of it.
In 2007, parental choice was limited by an artificial cap on charter schools. We removed that cap, and today, we have twice as many charter schools serving more than twice as many students.
In 2007, local control was hampered by master agreements and labor laws that tied the hands of locally elected school boards. Today, Idaho’s school districts are working under reformed labor laws that have empowered school boards with the authority needed to lead their districts.
We were stuck with an outdated salary grid where a teacher’s compensation was based solely on seniority and a teacher’s education level. That has changed. For the past two years, a portion of a teacher’s compensation has been based on student achievement, and today, there is bipartisan support to transition from that stagnant salary grid to a progressive, comprehensive career ladder form of compensation.
In 2007, there was no uniform teacher evaluation process for teachers and teacher evaluations were not tied to student achievement or job performance. We now have a uniform statewide teacher evaluation system, and today, a portion of that evaluation is based on the academic growth of students and a teacher’s job performance.
There was a digital divide between our rural schools and our urban and suburban schools so access to learning opportunities was limited to some or not available to all. Today, because of the miracle of technology, the Idaho Education Network has expanded access to the best educational opportunities to all high school students in the most rural and remote parts of Idaho.
In 2007, high school students in other states were enjoying the opportunity of getting a jump start on college and professional-technical by earning dual credits before graduating from high school. Today, we have incredible advanced opportunities in high school by helping high school students pay for dual credit, Advanced Placement or professional technical courses. In the past three years, we have seen an explosion in the number of students participating and the number of college credits earned.
Today, every high school junior is now taking a college entrance exam before they leave high school.
We have adopted higher academic standards, Idaho's core standards, to make sure students are getting the education they deserve in grades K-12 so they are prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce.
We have provided more transparency to parents and taxpayers by creating an online academic report card and a fiscal report card.
We created the Idaho Math Initiative to improve math education across all grades. This laid a strong foundation for raising academic standards in mathematics and to give Idaho teachers additional professional development.
I could go on. These are just a few of the things we have accomplished in the past seven years.
We have implemented many more things to improve our public education system and ensure every student graduates from high school and graduates prepared to go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.
Many of our efforts have been successful, some have not. But they all have led us to where we are today. Today, we have a clear path forward. We have bipartisan support for changing things like the way we compensate teachers, investing in advanced technology in the classroom, creating more advanced opportunities and more. We welcome this support. We must continue to do important things, and we must continue to them in bipartisan ways.
This is a landmark opportunity in the State of Idaho. This is something we have wanted for a long time, but it has always been elusive – for political reasons. It seems like lately, everything I do, every action, every speech, every request, is looked at through the lens of re-election. And I believe there are some who currently support what we are doing, but who might feel the need to distance themselves from this work – or even oppose it – simply because they think it might benefit me politically. Therefore, I want to take that off the table. It is for that reason that I will not seek re-election in 2014. This is not a decision I came to easily, but I know it is the right decision for me, for my family, and for the children of Idaho.
The changes we need, the changes our children deserve cannot be built upon merely a political foundation. They must be based on a real belief and value system that truly puts children first because, if reform and change is based solely on political expediency, then when the politics change so will the commitment. I want to do what I can to take the politics out of what we are doing now and focus on completing the important work ahead of us.
There are important things that we can and must accomplish this Legislative Session and over the next 11 months in the best interest of Idaho students. Elected officials have political capital, and they can spend it many ways. One of those ways is getting hard things done, and I plan to spend the political capital I have doing just that. During this Legislative Session and over the next 11 months, I will do everything I can to begin to implement the recommendations of the Task Force for Improving Education. That must remain our top priority in Idaho.