Friday, July 1, 2011

Luna recall campaign falls short at deadline

Signature count about one-third of goal


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

Tom Luna

Efforts to force a vote to recall state schools Superintendent Tom Luna officially failed this week, when the deadline to collect nearly 160,000 signatures came and went and counts came up short.

The Committee to Recall Tom Luna announced Monday that it had collected about 50,000 signatures, less than a third of those required to place a recall vote on a ballot Aug. 30. Committee leaders say they view the signatures they did collect as symbols of a broader victory, however.

"We are very proud of what we accomplished, and the ripple effects will continue for some time into the future," said Nancy Berto, founder of the committee, in a press release issued Monday.

Berto said involvement in the committee has rallied people to support schools and become involved in state government in a way they may not have before.

"It is so heart-warming to see so many people, youngsters not old enough to vote who have made signs, rallied here in Boise and elsewhere, to seniors who have gathered at senior centers to sign petitions," she said.

Morgan Hill, the committee's campaign manager, said he saw an increase in political activism in the Treasure Valley as a result of the committee's efforts.

"As of now, we have reports of nearly 3,000 newly registered voters in the Treasure Valley alone," he said in a press release.

< The Idaho Republican Party, however, cheered the effort's failure as a victory for the GOP.

"This is a huge blow to the anti-education reform establishment," said Norm Semanko, the party's state chair. "This confirms that the will of the people was made known in the 2010 elections."

Berto, a former Mountain Home Air Force Base secretary, began her protest before the superintendent's three controversial education reforms had even been signed into law.

Berto sat outside hearings at the state Capitol as the Legislature debated the bills, holding signs that said "Stop the Luna-cy" and "Save Our Schools."

The premise of the recall movement is that Luna did not mention the reforms in his campaign and should be held accountable for the omission.

The reforms established a merit pay system, reduced state funding for teacher salaries and paved the way for increased technology in classrooms and more online courses for high school students.

A referendum on the three reform bills will appear on the November 2012 ballot, due to a successful signature-collecting campaign championed by the Idaho Education Association, the Blaine County Education Association and other education groups.

Education reform

For more background on the recall movement, search "Recall effort expands" on our home page, www.mtexpress.com to read the full story by Katherine Wutz.

Katherine Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




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