Two visions for Idaho public education

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Today we profile the two candidates for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction, the office which oversees public schools K-12 in Idaho. Tomorrow, The Press will look at the race for U.S. Representative in Congressional District 1.

Tom Luna (R)

Birth date: Nov. 5, 1958

Profession: Current Superintendent of Public Instruction

Educational background: Attended Ricks College (BYU-Idaho) and Boise State University; Thomas Edison State College, BA

Public service: Current Idaho State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Senior Advisor to US Secretary of Education Rod Paige, US Department of Education; Chairman of Idaho's Assessment and Accountability Commission; Chairman and member of the Nampa School Board; Commissioner/Chairman on the Idaho Standards Commission; President and Founder of Scales Unlimited; Member, Board of Directors, Council of Chief State School Officers; Member, ESEA Reauthorization Committee, Council of Chief State School Officers; Member, Next Generation Learners Committee, Council of Chief State School Officers; former President of the International Society of Weights and Measurement

Community service: Chairman and member of the Nampa School Board; Member, Nampa Exchange Club

How many years as a resident of your city: 25 years

Marital status: Married 30 yrs to Cindy

Family: Six children, Five grandchildren

Hobbies: Golf, reading, spending time with grandchildren. Running one marathon a year.

1. Why are you running for office?

Over the past four years, I've shown our investments in education are significantly raising student achievement. The number of Idaho's schools reaching our high academic goals has increased from 26 to 62 percent. Only eight states now outscore Idaho 8th graders in math. We're on the right track and heading in the right direction. I will build on this success.

2. What do you see as the three biggest issues you'll face?

The biggest issue facing education today is the same one we'll always face: the necessity for higher student achievement. It is obviously a challenge to identify the resources we need to continue investing in Idaho's classrooms and building upon the successes we have made so far. We also must ensure we spend those resources effectively and efficiently.

3. If elected, what steps will you take to resolve these issues?

Higher student achievement: Since I've been State Superintendent, we have raised student achievement significantly from 26 percent of schools meeting our high academic goals to 62 percent now meeting these goals. This isn't a coincidence. It's the result of the targeted investments we have made in Idaho's classrooms. We will continue to make these investments.

Identify resources: I will continue to turn over every rock and shake every tree to find additional resources for Idaho's public schools. In 2010, I got creative and found $22 million in reserve funds at the Idaho Land Board. I will continue to think outside the box and find the necessary funding for Idaho kids.

Effectively and efficiently: Since I took office, I have worked to reduce administrative costs at the state level and direct more funding into the classroom where it's needed most. My agency has saved nearly $300,000 a year by reducing office space and printing costs. This money has funded First Robotics teams at middle schools, chess programs at elementary schools, and classroom technology.

4. What specific skills or experience qualify you for this job?

This is an administrative position that requires a principled leader who can manage people, programs and policies. As a former businessman and school board trustee, I have applied sound business principles in education. Look at the results. In this tough economy, I got creative and found another $22 million for schools, and we've had unprecedented gains in student achievement.

5. Why should voters elect you, rather than an opponent?

Since I've been State Superintendent, we have raised student achievement by creating a customer-driven education system. I've lived in Idaho for 30 years and been involved in education at the local, state and federal levels. My opponent is a lifelong bureaucrat who wants our schools to go back to the status quo we had before. This is unacceptable.

Dr. Stan Olson (D)

Birthdate: Sept. 24, 1949

Profession: Recently Retired Superintendent- Boise School District (40 Years of Service in Public Education Leadership Roles)

Educational Background: Doctorate in Educational Leadership- Western Michigan University; Specialist Degree in Education Administration- Eastern Michigan University; Masters Degree in Community Education- Eastern Michigan University; Bachelor of Science in History/Secondary Education- Central Michigan University

Public Service: Never ran for public office

Community Service: Rotary Club of Boise (President-Elect 2012-13); Treasure Valley United Way Board of Directors; Boise Metro Chamber of Commerce; Idaho March of Dimes; Idaho Association of School Administrators (IASA); Boise State University College of Education Advisory Council; University of Idaho College of Science Advisory Board; College of Western Idaho Strategic Planning Team; Boise State University College of Education Dean's Transition Team

How many years as a resident of your city? 8

Marital Status: Married to Connie, 39 years

Family: Two Daughters; Kelly Anne and Julie Alicia, and two grandchildren, Keira age 6, and Ian age 3

Hobbies: Competitive speed-walking (21 Marathons), World Service Projects (Rotary), Fundraising for Charitable Organizations, Reading (History, Non-Fiction, Education), Graduate Courses and Seminars, Collector of Movies and Classic Rock Music

Why are you running?

On Tom Luna's watch, Idaho education has declined substantially. College retention and graduation rates are among the lowest in the nation. Academic performance is reported politically, rather than in transparent measures. We spend over one billion dollars a year on schools, yet our state lacks an educational strategic plan that is known and practiced. I'm running because this must change.

What do you see as the three biggest issues you'll face?

1) The need to stabilize funding for the upcoming fiscal year and beyond; 2) the need to develop a strategic plan for education that will be known and practiced; 3) the need to develop student performance measures that accurately and transparently report the progress and effectiveness of Idaho's education system.

If elected what steps will you take to resolve these issues?

First, I will deliver a public State of Education address, outlining the current condition of our schools and the effects of the 2010-11 budget cuts. The intent of this address will be to give transparency and clarity to the critical needs of our school systems that must be addressed in the coming year to avoid severe and long-term damage.

Next, I will convene all educational stakeholder groups, (parents, students, educators, business, legislators, etc) to identify critical FY 2012 funding needs for Idaho's 115 school districts and charter schools and develop a consensus-based budget plan to present to the legislature.

On completion of the budget plan, we will use the same stakeholder representatives and others to develop a multi-year strategic plan, including performance measurement systems, for Idaho schools. The intent of the plan will be to define what a thorough system of education means for rural, suburban, and urban districts, and identify the resources necessary to implement the plan over time.

What specific skills or experience qualify you for this job?

A commitment to educational success for all children; substantial experience and an understanding of effective practices; the desire and ability to work with all stakeholders to build consensus/support for educational initiatives; the ability to interpret conditions that impact education and to act to produce needed changes to existing systems; and an understanding of the impact of state decisions on local schools.

What makes you a better choice for voters than your opponent?

I am a 40-year educational practitioner and leader who has a record of producing verifiable results for students. I have earned a reputation as a consensus builder who legitimately involves educational stakeholders in producing educational systems that work and truly help children learn. My focus is an on educational success for all children, not on political ideology.

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