Tom Luna's Budget  

Posted by Jessica in ,

Cameron wanted me to comment on Luna's budget request and JFAC's budget appropriation. JFAC essentially gave Luna all that he asked for with the exception of, if my memory is correct, more money to fund dual-enrollment, as well as a few other things...?

Teachers will be given a 3% pay raise, money will be given to help teachers pay for more classroom supplies, money will be given to improve textbooks, and money given to assist students who are struggling with the standardized testing-these are just a few things.

My first thought after reading this editorial was that I am glad Tom Luna is trying to fulfill his campaign promise of pumping more money directly into the classroom. My next thought was that of course the legislature would try to give Luna all that he asked for, he is one of them! Now I am not saying his budget was given respect solely because Luna is a Republican, but I think that helps and it helps more than we realize. I do know many Democrats liked his budget as well and though I am no expert, I find nothing seriously wrong with the budget (besides the dual-enrollment screw up).

Some of you might be surprised to read this, but I don't think Tom Luna will be a horrible superintendent. Having barely won his race, having the entire teacher's union watching every move you make, having fired 19 people in the State Department of Education and having 7 more resign certainly provides some incentive to not do anything too controversial.

But here are my top 3 concerns:

Dual-enrollment should be a top priority for this state. Having lost 9% of its enrollment the last 2 semesters, ISU is left wondering what must be done to keep students at ISU. I firmly believe that strengthening the dual-enrollment system and funding it fully would help all Idaho universities. JFAC was not happy with Tom Luna's budget as it related to dual-enrollment. They said it needed more work. So now we need to wait another year for this state to completely address the problem of losing high school graduates to Utah universities.

My other concern, and one I addressed with Luna's policy advisor, was a merit pay system in Idaho. Should good teachers be rewarded? YES! But the best teachers I ever had all did things that cannot be measured. You can't always measure success and you can't always measure the impact a good teacher makes in a student's life.

Tom Luna has made good and safe decisions so far, but will that continue? He advocates school "choice", but what does that mean exactly?

So bravo, Mr. Luna, on a pretty good budget, and bravo to JFAC for not fighting with him over some important budget allocations.


I haven't looked very closely at the budget, but I'm aware of your feelings for Mr. Luna. (feelings for?, perhaps feelings about would be better...)

I don't know what exactly Mr. Luna means by school choice, but Utah just passed a school voucher law. Here's some info. It should be interesting to see how it works.

I've been following what's been going down in Utah, thank to Rob's blog. It should be very interesting to see what happens. What's your thought on vouchers?

Regarding your point that perhaps Mr. Luna's budget request was granted mostly because of his party affilitation; that was one of the main reasons that the Times-News endorsed him last fall. They said he would be more likely to work well with the legislature.

As far as vouchers are concerned, I'm undecided. That is why I've been trying to follow Utah's discussions on the topic. The link I gave in my last comment has some pretty good info, and quite frankly is persuasive. But Utah's voucher system will be the first of its kind, so it's pretty untested.

Obviously public education is faltering a bit. I think the solution has more to do with local action and awareness than national and in some degree even state action. For instance, last summer Twin Falls voted on a bond for a new high school. It passed by a very slim margin. The plans for the new school were put in the newspaper a few months ago, along with a very large price tag. It will be a great facility, with some pretty neat extras. Shortly afterwards, there was a letter in the newspaper stating how the high school didn't have enough books to go around. Kids apparently don't get to take some of their books home with them because they are shared with other classes. I remember thinking to myself, why in the world is Twin Falls spending tens of millions of dollars on a brand new building with all the bells and whistles (including great sports facilities) when they can't even provide enough books for their students? It's asinine. I understand there are different funding sources and budgets. But ultimately the money comes from the same place.

Situations like these are why people are attracted to things like vouchers. One blog I frequently read recently discussed education and education spending.

That blog post and its comments also tackled the sentiment behind school and teacher accountability. Alot of people feel like they are throwing money away. I have had some great teachers and some pretty lame ones. My wife and my sister were both attacked and humiliated by math teachers because they didn't "get it" right away. My dad is a really good elementary school teacher and I've asked him how we could "grade" teachers. He said you can't. Sometimes there are classes where you do everything in your power to teach and motivate, and yet they just don't care. So grades and test scores will suffer. Other years, the students are excited and motivated and things just go smoothly. My dad does all sorts of really cool things in his classroom. I wish I had more teachers just like him. But he told me a couple of weeks ago that he had parents complain that he was spending too much time on science and not on penmanship. Are you kidding me?! I loved his reply though. He said science includes critical thinking, math, reading, and a whole lot of writing. All of it incorporated into something the kids actually like to do. Here's a teacher that is innovating and going beyond boring lectures and worksheets and the parents are complaining. So how would he be graded? What system of merit pay or whatever would reward him? I think he's the best teacher in that entire district, but I have no idea how to develop a grading system that would reward him. So I guess I echo your concern about teacher merit pay.

But that doesn't address the crummy teachers out there. They can really harm students because they are lazy/mean/inept or whatever. Yet we often hear about teacher shortages. I think that higher pay would solve some of those problems. It would make the profession more attractive and increase the applicant pool, effectively weaning out the inferior teachers. Or at least make them work harder at being better.

Well, when I spoke with Luna's policy advisor, he didn't really give me a great answer about how to measure a good teacher. Aside from saying they will look at grades, test scores (including an upward trend of test scores), etc...there wasn't much else he could point to. Honestly, in those classes in which I had a great teacher, I did tend to do better, however, I also had great math teachers but I bombed in the class.

I expressed hope that Luna would include many teachers as they decide how to implement merit pay, to which his advisor said he definately would.

I did read the last link and it was very interesting.

As far as funding, I don't know that there is any simple answer. I do remember hearing that no other country has had a public education system as large as ours and while it needs improvement, we are also doing something unprecendented and remarkable.

I have a great idea for our teacher and nurse shortage. I might devote a small post to it because I really like this idea and think it would be great for the shortages and for welfare recipients.


I have got to email you something I know about Jana Jones that is very interesting. I don't feel comfortable posting it publicly because I would want to get Jana's permission first. If you leave a comment with your email, I'll reject the comment so your email isn't public or you can email me at cavajess at

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