Statement of Tom Luna

First and foremost, I am a parent. I want what every parent desires: An education system that gives children the opportunity to reach their potential and have the very best possible future. Why do I want this? Because I know first hand that education is the great equalizer, giving all children a chance to succeed.

We must have an education system that meets the needs of children who struggle as well as those who excel. Our children deserve no less. Also, we owe it to parents and taxpayers to use resources wisely, so that more of what we're spending goes where it is needed most -- teacher salaries and classroom supplies.

For the last 15 years, I've been at the forefront of education improvement and innovation at the local, state and federal level. As Nampa School Board chairman, I oversaw the formation of one of the state's first charter schools. Now Idaho has 25, giving parents more educational choices. I led the effort to bring about Achievement Standards and the ISAT. Now every parent and teacher in Idaho has access to these important tools. As a senior education official in the Bush administration I was tasked with bringing more flexibility to No Child Left Behind, we made it easier for schools across the country to comply with the law.

Years spent improving public education for two governors and for President Bush taught me that there are three areas common to successful school systems: Accountability, broader local control and choice. I call these the ABCs of education improvement.

Accountability begins when parents, teachers, community leaders and elected officials have information on how their schools are performing so they can work together to improve them.

Broader local control means decisions are made at the local level and not in Boise or Washington, D.C. A parent's conduit to a child's school is through the teacher, administrator and local school board. By empowering school boards, we empower parents.

Without choice in public education there can be no accountability. We must give parents options if the school their child is attending is not meeting their child's needs. We must not force children to stay in an education environment where they're not learning. Our economic and higher education systems are the best in the world because we understand that choices make us stronger. We don't decide where to attend college, or get medical care based on our zip code. We shouldn't educate children that way.

Every four years, we elect a superintendent of public instruction who promises innovation. And every four years, nothing happens. We don't have to settle for the status-quo anymore. Idaho is blessed with wonderful teachers, great students and strong families. Imagine what we can accomplish if we have a governor, school superintendent, legislature, parents and teachers all working together. I have a record of bringing stakeholders together and successfully raising the bar in education. I will continue to raise the bar. That is my promise to you and to all Idaho schoolchildren.

Submitted for primary debate, May 2006