For the second time in Idaho's history, voters have overturned a law passed by state lawmakers.
Residents rejected the 2011 education laws known as Students Come First. They did so by a wide margin.
As part of our analysis on Morning Edition, KBSX education reporter Adam Cotterell spoke with host Scott Graf about the result, reaction to it, and what comes next.
Scott Graf: “It looks like all Idaho high school students will not get a laptop and teachers won’t get bonuses based on student test scores. How did these laws come about?”
Adam Cotterell: “In January 2011 Superintendent Tom Luna introduced a package of three bills to the legislature. He said they’d allow the state to provide better education for less money. Everyone outside Luna’s inner circle was surprised by the proposal. The bills instantly became the subject of a bitter fight. There were protests and long public meetings, but eventually they passed -- against the opposition of Democrats and some Republicans. Opponents later canvassed the state and got enough signatures to put the laws on the ballot for a statewide vote.”
Scott Graf: “What did Luna say about voters rejecting the laws he’s fought for?”
Adam Cotterell: "I spoke to Luna briefly last night and he didn’t want to talk. This was before many results were in on the propositions but the presidential race was already being called for President Obama. Luna seemed disheartened by that. He was a big Mitt Romney supporter. In fact the mood was pretty gloomy at the GOP party last night as things looked worse and worse for Romney. At one point I approached First Lady Lori Otter to talk about her support for Students Come First and she just said “I don’t want to talk” and turned and walked away. I did talk to Governor Butch Otter.”
Scott Graf: “Why does he think voters rejected the laws?”
Adam Cotterell: “He blamed the amount of money the teachers union spent on the campaign effort. Opponents of the laws spent more than 3 and half million dollars. Most of that came from The National Education association and the Idaho education Association. Supporters spent about a million dollars less. But Otter also blamed us.”
Scott Graf: “Us?”
Adam Cotterell: “Not us specifically, but the media. He said that because journalists often champion the idea of open meetings we should have come out in support of proposition 1 because that law required teachers and districts to negotiate in open meetings.”
Governor Butch Otter: “I can’t believe how the media came out against prop 1 when they’re so much for transparency wherever we spend tax payer dollars. Yet we spend more tax payer dollars in Idaho on education than we do on anything else in the state. They’ll now be able to go back behind closed doors and negotiate without any transparency.”
Scott Graf: “Did the media come out against prop 1?”
Adam Cotterell: “KBSX doesn’t take positions on issues like that, but the Idaho Statesman’s editorial board did not endorse it. And there was a lot more in that law than just open negotiations.”
Scott Graf: “What comes next?”
Adam Cotterell: “Otter says there will be efforts made for more overhauls to the state’s education system but he says the legislature will take the lead on that. On the vote no side, where things were a bit more cheerful last night, they say they want to see a new reform effort to take the place of these laws. That’s what State Representative Brian Cronin who was hired to be a spokesman for the vote non campaign told us.”
Brian Cronin: “I think first of all you’re going to see the teachers of this state reach out to the very people who were supporting these laws, and perhaps who created these laws and say look, we want to have this conversation and we do believe changes can be made for the better. But let’s have it together, let’s start again, you know let’s call a truce. Let’s put this behind us and really have a serious conversation.”
Adam Cotterell: “Cronin says any reforms need to address the root problem of Idaho education which he says is getting more kids to go on to college. We should know more about what those who opposed the laws have in mind later today. The no campaign plans to have a press conference this morning. And we’ll continue trying to get Superintendent Tom Luna to give us his take.”
Copyright 2012 Boise State Public Radio