Thursday, March 29, 2012

Supt. Luna Talks About the Value of Federalism in Education with the Heritage Foundation

Superintendent Tom Luna was a guest of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. yesterday, where he joined U.S. Representative Rob Bishop from Utah in discussing the importance of federalism and education reform. Both speakers emphasized the need for state control in education, citing both the Tenth Amendment—which leaves to the states all powers not expressly granted to the federal government in the Constitution—and the ineffectiveness of federal, one-size-fits-all mandates, many of which are poorly suited to meet the needs of rural states because they are designed for urban school systems.

Representative Bishop, who spent 28 years as an educator before his election to Congress, emphasized the need for choice and freedom in education, something he believes has been limited by excessive involvement and regulation by the federal government. Bishop strongly asserted the importance of federalism, which provides for more independent choices, options, and opportunities without a universal value judgment on those choices. For instance, if the citizens of the state of New Jersey want to implement a myriad of social programs and heavily tax themselves to pay for it, that is fine by Rep. Bishop, as long as they don’t try and impose those policies on the rest of the nation. Each state makes the choices that are right for that state, as determined by that state’s people.

Rep. Bishop believes the free market, then, allows individuals and states to make the best decisions for themselves, and he supports the “idea of letting people make choices for themselves and letting schools make choices for themselves.” As a result, he believes in a customer model of education where the needs of students and parents are the priority. “We should be making sure that kids are the center of the picture, and that the politicians are taken out of the equation,“ said Bishop. Schooling should be about meeting the needs of kids, not meeting the needs of a curriculum concept. Rep. Bishop finds the argument some make against this model—that “parents are too dumb to make the decisions for themselves and kids will always take the easiest choices”—unconvincing, asserting that parents place a great value on education and want their children to succeed and that students who are given responsibility and who are held accountable will respond accordingly.

Superintendent Luna voiced a similar sentiment, drawing on Idaho’s own decision to stop waiting for the federal government to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act and to pursue a waiver. "Too many of our students can spend 12 years in our public schools and possibly never hear the proper role of the federal government in our lives. I agree with the representative about this Tenth Amendment approach to education, and that's really the foundation of what we've done in Idaho. And I think you're seeing more and more states taking that approach when it comes to education.”

Supt. Luna expressed his belief that as long as the federal government is going to send money to the states there has to be accountability, but he believes that that accountability is currently too intrusive. States should be in the driver’s seat when it comes to educating their students. “The fact that we've waited five years for the federal government to reauthorize this law is evidence enough of the minimum role that the federal government should play in education,” said Supt. Luna.

The Students Come First (SCF) reforms are Idaho’s demonstration of how federalism allows states to creatively address their unique needs. Our educators, parents, and legislators in Idaho have always sought to put students first. In reforming our education system, Idaho ensures that our policies reflect and support that commitment.

That means creating an open, sustainable, and data-informed education system. That means giving Idaho’s students access and opportunity to the highest level of instruction and the most effective instructors. It means supporting and rewarding our hardworking teachers. It means infusing our classrooms and empowering our students with the modern technology they need to compete in today’s global marketplace. And it means fulfilling our obligation to prepare our students to find success in their postsecondary and vocational endeavors and to realize their own versions of the American Dream.

“We did this without spending more money,” said Supt. Luna. “It’s an exciting time to be involved in education, not just in Idaho, but across the country….With the kind of flexibility that Representative Bishop talked about, these are the kinds of things that can happen at the state level.”

Supt. Luna’s visit with Heritage was the final stop of a trip to Washington, D.C., where he also met with US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, attended the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) Legislative Conference (Supt. Luna is President of the CCSSO), and joined an Education Sector panel of prominent education stakeholders to discuss the challenges of implementing multifaceted and interconnected reforms.

Watch the Heritage Discussion

Watch the Education Sector Discussion

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna visited Collister Elementary School in Boise this morning to recognize Idaho students for working hard in mathematics and helping raise money for local nonprofit organizations – at the same time.

In February, students in Idaho and Indiana competed head-to-head in the Math State Showdown to see who could solve the most complex math problems on Apangea Math, a web-based supplemental math program that is part of the Idaho Math Initiative.

While Indiana eked out the win and solved the most problems, Idaho students were victorious in donating the most money to charity.

Through Apangea, students earn points as the solve complex math problems. They can redeem these points for prizes, such as gift cards or T-shirts, or they can choose to donate their points as contributions to nonprofit organizations in Idaho.

Because so many Idaho students chose to donate their points, they raised more than $1,200 for The Idaho Foodbank, The Idaho Meth Project, and the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign – just in the month of February. This equals more than 6,265,000 points donated or approximately 3,699 hours that Idaho students spent solving complex math problems. 

“We have great kids in Idaho. They work hard, they do well in school, and they care about the people in their community,” Superintendent Luna said. “I am so grateful and honored to be your State Superintendent!”

Mr. Frank Robinson’s fourth-grade class at Collister Elementary in Boise won the Most Valuable Class award in Idaho for solving the most problems statewide during the competition. Superintendent Luna, Dr. Don Coberly of the Boise School District and representatives of Apangea visited the school Wednesday to celebrate the students’ success. The gifted-and-talented class solved 6,821 problems in less than 30 days, topping all other classrooms competing in grades 3-8 statewide.

A fourth grade class at Indian Hills Elementary School in Pocatello won second place in the competition.

As part of Idaho’s Math Initiative, Apangea is available to any student in the state for free and can be used in the classroom as part of the curriculum or before school, after school or during the summer as a supplement to a student’s education.

Monday, March 19, 2012


This morning at Capital High School, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna kicked off Roadtrip Nation’s Idaho SAT School Day statewide tour with an inspiring opening address. At the event, the first of 12 Idaho tour stops, Roadtrip Nation and the Superintendent rallied the 500 high school juniors in attendance to map their own journeys beyond graduation.

“Taking a college entrance exam is an important step in a student’s path toward college, professional-technical education, or career. I am excited that, as part of Students Come First, we are able to provide this opportunity to all high school juniors in Idaho and are now working with the College Board and Roadtrip Nation to celebrate SAT School Day across our state,” Superintendent Luna said. “Through SAT School Day and our other efforts, we can make sure every student graduates from high school and goes on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.”

Starting today through April 16, Roadtrip Nation’s Roadies and their Green RV will bring awareness about the college-going process and excitement about SAT School Day by hosting assemblies at schools throughout the state.

Supt Luna signs the RoadtripNation RV.
"Roadtrip Nation is visiting these schools to be a catalyst for students to start thinking about their futures,” said Mike Marriner, Founder of Roadtrip Nation. “By sharing stories of leaders from all different walks of life, who have defined their own Roads doing what they love, we hope to inspire and empower students to discover who they want to become."

Angela Garcia, The College Board’s Executive Director of the SAT program, encouraged students at the assembly to take advantage of Idaho SAT School Day, an opportunity for public school juniors to complete a college entrance exam while also fulfilling a state graduation requirement—for free.

“This is about ensuring students are ready for their journey beyond high school, and taking the SAT is an integral part of that process,” said Garcia. “We want every door to be open as students prepare for their future.”

Idaho State Department of Education selected the SAT for this initiative because of its comprehensive tools for teachers and students, including free access to the Official SAT Online Course on The College Board’s website to help prepare students for Idaho SAT School Day.

Other Idaho Roadtrip Nation stops include high schools in Twin Falls, Minico, Coeur d’Alene, Moscow and more.

Registration deadline for Idaho SAT School Day is April 4. Students can register for the exam, find available practice resources and college planning tools at

For more information on Roadtrip Nation and its mission visit

About the SAT

Created and designed by educators, the SAT® is a valuable and reliable measure of college readiness for students seeking admission to undergraduate colleges and universities in the United States. The SAT tests the academic skills and knowledge that students acquire in high school. It also shows how well students can apply their knowledge, a factor that educators and researchers agree is critical to success in college course work. The SAT is consistently shown to be a fair and valid predictor of first-year college success for all students. A study including data from more than 100 colleges and universities demonstrates that the best predictor of college success is the combination of SAT scores and high school grades. In addition to admission, many colleges use the SAT for course placement. The SAT is administered annually to more than two million students at approximately 6,000 test centers located in more than 170 countries. (

About the College Board

The College Board is a mission-driven not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity.

Founded in 1900, the College Board was created to expand access to higher education. Today, the membership association is made up of more than 5,900 of the world's leading educational institutions and is dedicated to promoting excellence and equity in education. Each year, the College Board helps more than seven million students prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success — including the SAT® and the Advanced Placement Program®. The organization also serves the education community through research and advocacy on behalf of students, educators and schools. For further information, visit

About Roadtrip Nation

Roadtrip Nation is a public television series and a grassroots Movement of people who are defining their own Roads in life by resisting The Noise of conformity and gaining the confidence to do what inspires them. In 2009, Roadtrip Nation extended into education with the creation of The Roadtrip Nation Experience, a program that empowers thousands of students across the U.S. to connect their individual interests, as well as their educations, to the real world. Learn more at

To get updates of when Roadtrip Nation will be in your neck of the woods, follow on Twitter @RoadtripNation and

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Superintendent Luna Joined Students, Staff at Liberty Charter School for Chef Tuesdays

It was a delicious and nutritious day at Liberty Charter School.

Just ask the kids! When asked if they enjoyed their lunch, they all raised their hands with very few exceptions.

Liberty Charter School is partnering with the Idaho State Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Programs team to host “Chef Tuesdays” every Tuesday from March to May. On Chef Tuesdays, local professional Chef Brenda Thompson works with the staff at Liberty Charter to make new, more nutritious lunch recipes and see how students like them.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna joined students and staff on Tuesday, March 13 for one of the first “Chef Tuesday” events. 

The State Department of Education selected Liberty Charter School as the pilot site to implement the new chef-inspired recipes, part of a federal grant the state received from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Child Nutrition Programs.

The goal of these chef-designed school meals is for them to not only taste great but to meet the new USDA Nutrition Standards for School Meals, which require schools to serve more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Liberty Charter staff and students are encouraged to give their feedback on the meals, sharing their likes and dislikes. This will help Chef Brenda and Idaho’s Child Nutrition team to improve the recipes as they work to develop a set of menus that will be used by schools throughout Idaho and the rest of the nation.

Students and staff overwhelmingly enjoyed the menu on March 13: Cuban pulled pork salad wrap with beans, fresh apples, peaches, and milk. Kids cleaned their plates and were eager to tell us how much they loved the food they ate.

So here’s the Scoop on Chef Tuesdays this spring:
  • Chef Tuesdays will take place every Tuesday, March through May.
  • Meals will be served as part of the school lunch program.
  • Meals will be at no additional cost to the normal school lunch price.
  • Chef Brenda is a Culinary Chef and Registered Dietitian so the meals will taste great and will be healthy for students.

Monday, March 5, 2012

JFAC Approves 5 Percent Increase in Funding for Public Schools

The Legislature's budget-setting committee today approved a 4.6 percent increase in general fund revenues for Idaho's public schools next year.

Under this budget, the average Idaho teacher will see more than a 6 percent increase in overall compensation through increases in minimum salaries and the opportunity to earn a bonus above and beyond their salary.

"We have been working closely with members of the Legislature to come up with the best budget possible for our students and those who work hard every day in our schools. I am very pleased with this budget," Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said. "This budget includes funding to pay performance bonuses for teachers, provide 21st Century tools for every classroom, keep base salaries intact, keep discretionary funding whole in school districts, fund the state's virtual academy, and pay additional money to the technology professionals working in Idaho's schools."

Here are the highlights of the fiscal year 2013 that passed the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee (JFAC) today:

• 5.8% increase in teacher compensation. On average, a teacher’s pay will increase next year by $2,082 because of the following changes:

1. Increase in minimum salary: The minimum salary for beginning teachers will increase to $30,500. This will affect 31% of Idaho teachers.

2. Fully fund movement on the grid: There will be no reduction in funding for teacher or administrator salaries. The state will fully fund current movement on the salary grid for teachers who gain years of experience and more education. At least 21% of Idaho teachers will see salary increases for gaining additional years of experience next year.

3. Pay-for-performance: Idaho is funding an estimated $39 million to implement a statewide pay-for-performance plan that recognizes and rewards great classroom teachers. At least 85% of teachers will earn some form of a performance bonus next year.

• $4 million to fund growth in student enrollment, including additional teaching positions in growing districts.

• $9 million in advanced classroom technology for all grades.

• $2.5 million to begin implementing the one-to-one initiative in high schools by providing a laptop device to every high school teacher, principal, and other certified staff.

• $4 million in ongoing professional development to help teachers integrate technology in the classroom.

• $5 million for Idaho Digital Learning Academy as it transitions to a self-funded agency.

• $2.5 million in additional funding for IT professionals in schools and districts.

• $842,400 for the Dual Credit for Early Completers Program, which allows seniors to take up to 36 dual credit courses paid for by the state if they meet high school graduation requirements early.

• $9.4 million in continued funding for the Idaho Reading Initiative, Idaho Math Initiative, and ISAT Remediation.

JFAC works to set budgets for the Idaho Legislature. Once approved, these budgets still must be approved by the full House, full Senate and signed by the Governor. The FY2013 budget would go into effect July 1, 2012 for the 2012-2013 school year.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Supt. Luna's Letter on Senate Bill 1331

Yesterday, the Senate voted unanimously to adopt Senate Bill 1331; the bill now heads to the House for consideration. SB 1331 removes shifts in salary-based apportionment scheduled for the next five years by last year's reform legislation. If the Legislature believes that funding will be available to make this possible, it is good news for everyone.

Idaho’s Students Come First reforms built an education system that educates more students at a higher level with limited resources. That meant spending the money the state currently has differently. In tough economic times, this required adjustments to salary-based apportionment. However, Superintendent Luna committed to offsetting those adjustments as soon as revenues were available. An improving economy allowed him to do just that in the FY 2013 budget request he made earlier this year, where he proposed offsetting the adjustment scheduled for the coming year. Senate Bill 1331 would permanently offset the adjustments in salary-based apportionment now and in future years.

The Idaho School Boards Association and Idaho Association of School Administrators testified in support of Senate Bill 1331. The Idaho Education Association testified in support of Senate Bill 1331, but said it still opposes the Students Come First laws and will fight for the laws to be repealed through a referendum in November 2012.

The following is the letter Superintendent Luna sent to members of the Senate Education Committee earlier this week regarding Senate Bill 1331:

February 27, 2012

Dear Members of Senate Education Committee,

Thank you for the opportunity to write to you regarding Senate Bill 1331. Through Students Come First, we reformed Idaho’s education system to spend the money we currently have differently to ensure every student is prepared to graduate from high school and go on to postsecondary education or the workforce without the need for remediation.

Last year, we created a consistent funding stream for Idaho’s public schools to achieve the state’s education reform goals of expanding equal access and opportunity for every student, ensuring a highly effective teacher in every classroom, and creating transparent accountability at all levels in education. During the state’s tough economic time, this required adjustments in salary-based apportionment. However, the Governor and I said numerous times that education was the last dollar cut, and it will be the first dollar restored, as soon as the economy improved.

Since revenues are now available, I proposed a budget for Idaho’s public schools in Fiscal Year 2013 that follows through on the commitment made last year by offsetting the shift in salary-based apportionment.

This means there would be no reductions made to base salaries for teachers, administrators or classified staff in the upcoming year. No money would be shifted from salaries to pay for reforms. Senate Bill 1331 would make that proposal permanent now and in the future.

The Idaho Legislature is responsible for setting policy and determining the budget appropriations every year. If this Legislature now is confident the funding is available, not only in fiscal year 2013 but also in years going forward, this is good news. This means our reform efforts can move forward with full funding and support this year as I have proposed in my budget request, as well as in future years.

Just as we said last year, we need an education system that can educate more students at a higher level with limited resources. We are accomplishing that today under the current law. If this Legislature passes Senate Bill 1331, we still will accomplish this goal now and in the future.

The more people learn about Students Come First, the more they want to get behind it and make these laws work. I appreciate the support and the hard work of this Committee and the Legislature as you work to make education reform successful for all students in all schools now and in the future.


Tom Luna
Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction