Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna has been seldom seen at the Idaho Statehouse since Gem State voters rejected his Students Come First Initiatives in November. But that all changed Thursday as Luna began the day with a pre-dawn briefing before the Legislature's budget-writing committee and wrapped up the day with a pre-sunset presentation before the Senate Education Committee.
Earlier Thursday, Luna asked for a modest 3 percent increase in funding for Idaho's K-12 public schools, totaling $1.3 billion for 2013, including $10.4 million earmarked for technology, $10 million for facilities, $3.7 million for professional development and $150,000 for a safe-schools task force. Luna's plan also includes $4.85 million for math and science instructors and $300,000 for school administrator evaluations.
“Even in the deepest part of the great recession, our generations are seeing this legislature never cut our public schools in the middle of the school year," Luna told members of the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee.
Later in the day, Luna's presentation before the Senate Education Committee—a truncated version of his JFAC briefing—the superintendent focused on postsecondary education.
“In education, we talk about policies, laws, rules and budgets, but what it really comes down to is one thing,” Luna said. “How many of our children will be ready to prosper when they are adults? Over 60 percent of them will not be prepared to receive the education they need to prosper.”
According to Luna, only eight out of every 25 Idaho students complete any form of postsecondary education. The state’s goal is to have 60 percent of its students completing postsecondary education by 2020, and the way to achieve that goal, Luna said, is “somewhere in between more money and more accountability.”
He also proposed funding professional development for teachers and administrators and putting money into Schoolnet, an online system used to analyze data from school districts, measure student performance and organize and share curricula.
During both presentations, Luna spoke to the necessity of keeping education money in the education budget, rather than reopening the budget and using that money for other state needs.
“The Legislature has never cut (funding for) public schools in the middle of a school year,” he said. “There is no reason to do so now."