House Speaker Scott Bedke has mixed feelings about schools chief Tom Luna’s decision not to seek a third term.
“I think (Luna) tried to articulate this, but if his staying in any way hampers the progress or polarizes politically the implementation of the task force’s recommendations, then that’s a bigger… that’s what his priority is,” Bedke, R-Oakley, told Idaho Education News.
During his Statehouse announcement Monday, Luna said he wanted to take the politics out of implementing Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force for Improving Education’s recommendations because everything he did was being viewed “through a lens of reelection.”
While diverse education groups and members of both political parties backed the task force recommendations heading into the legislative session, Bedke said it is often difficult to move from on-the-ground support to implementation.
“The partisanship bickering, possibly, has started a little bit and I think (Luna’s) stepping back at this point elevates again the state’s resolve to come together on these issues there and to create an education system that we can all be proud of,” Bedke said.
Bedke and other prominent Republican lawmakers said Luna called them Sunday night to inform them of his decision. Luna will continue serving as schools superintendent until his term expires. The general election is set for Nov. 4.
Here’s what other political leaders are saying:
- Senate Education Committee Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene: “I agree that certainly his efforts so far this legislative session have been characterized as an attempt to enhance his re-electability,” Goedde told Betsy Russell of the Spokane Spokesman-Review. “(Now) I think the superintendent is in a position that he can be more forceful in trying to see those (education task force) recommendations move forward.
- House Education Committee Chairman Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle: “His administration has not been without controversy, and it’s because he really led. Anybody who just wants to maintain the status quo, you’re probably not going to see a lot of controversy…. When you try to change things you make people nervous sometimes and he did try to change things and, I believe, for the better… (His departure) is also going to leave a void in terms of leadership and we’re all going to have to look really carefully at the candidates who put forward themselves and make sure they have the ability to continue to lead us through this important transformation.”
- Randy Jensen, Republican candidate for state superintendent: “The announcement an incumbent is not seeking reelection is a reminder that choosing to serve, regardless of political affiliation, requires a deep commitment to your fellow citizens and a tough skin. I appreciate Superintendent Luna’s efforts to secure increased funding for education this legislative session. I look forward to seeing the results of his continued work on the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Education. … His decision not to seek reelection clears the way for a new conversation about educating the children of Idaho. A conversation free of the bitterness of past successes and failure.”
- Jana Jones, Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction, posting on her Facebook page: “Today Tom Luna announced he won’t be running for re-election. While this is good news for Idaho’s kids, I fear his ideas and policies returning in the form of another candidate. Whoever it is, we can’t let it happen. It’s going to take a lot of hard work to get our schools back on track and moving forward again. It’s also going to take someone who has been there and knows how to do it starting day one. I am ready to lead.”
- Penni Cyr, president of the Idaho Education Association: “Surprise. Like everybody else we didn’t know that he was going to do that. I think it will be very interesting… it’s wide open. We have until the middle of March to find out, so I guess we’ll all be watching to see who else might throw their hat in the ring (for the superintendents race).”
- Linda Clark, Superintendent of Meridian Joint School District No. 2, the state’s largest district: “I think it means it’s a wide open race, it will be an interesting one.”
- Karen Echeverria, executive director of the Idaho School Boards Association: “I just heard the announcement this morning and quite frankly I’m surprised. We meet with Superintendent Luna every Friday, and he hasn’t said anything to us.”