Idaho teachers union funded last-minute phone campaign for five Republicans, avoided fingerprints until after election

A new group, Idaho Republicans for Our Schools, filed its independent expenditure report on Election Day, May 15, and I've only now tumbled to what was up.

Idaho Education Association Vice President Rick Jones is the group's treasurer, and the $9,320 it spent on the five races was entirely paid by the Political Action Committee for Education, or PACE, the IEA's campaign fund.

Jones, of Rathdrum, said Tuesday that he's a Republican. "There are many Idaho educators who are Republicans. What we're saying is let's vote for Republicans who support public education, they're not mutually exclusive."

Campaign finance reports filed last month establish the link between IEA and Idaho Republicans for Our Schools. PACE contributed $9,320 to the new PAC on May 13, representing two-thirds of what PACE spent in the reporting period of April 30 to May 25.

Idaho Republicans for Our Schools, in turn, paid a Washington, D.C., phone bank to campaign for five Republican Senate candidates: incumbent GOP Sens. Shawn Keough of Sandpoint, Tim Corder of Mountain Home and Dean Cameron of Rupert; and two candidates for open seats, Stan Bastian of Eagle and Alan Ward of Emmett. Keough, Corder and Cameron were among eight Senate Republicans who opposed 2011's "Students Come First" laws that are subject to voter approval in November.

Keough and Cameron won their primaries, which featured substantial independent expenditures opposing them. Corder, who also faced heavy independent opposition spending, lost a head-to-head with Sen. Bert Brackett, R-Rogerson. Bastian lost to Rep. Marv Hagedorn, R-Meridian, and Ward lost to Rep. Steve Thayn, R-Emmett. Both Hagedorn and Thayn supported "Students Come First," which the IEA is vigorously opposing.

Jones said the timing of the spending wasn't designed to avoid embarrassing the GOP candidates benefiting from the union. "That had nothing to do with it," he said. "We need to make sure we get the right people elected."

Despite the new group's "Republican" title, the money supporting the GOP candidates went to Zata|3, a Washington, D.C., campaign firm that works for Democrats. According to Zata|3's website, "Democrats from the Courthouse to the White House turn to Zeta|3 for phone banks, robo calls and text messaging to ensure victory. Our innovative approach makes us America's top award-winning direct voter contact firm for progressive causes."

Asked why a Republican group supporting Republican candidates hired a Democratic firm, Jones said he'd have to discuss that with others and get back to me.

He said the group will be active in the general election campaign and will raise money from other sources besides IEA. "This is a full-on campaign," Jones said.

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I think this is good

Like any other interest group, the IEA needs to support those who support it, regardless of party. Instead of mindlessly opposing all Republicans, they'll do better supporting the individual, not the party. In that light, using Zeta 3 isn't so surprising - stuff happens only when there's enough overlap among enough circles on the Venn diagram.

The IEA is a political action committee!

These same IEA members are quick to point out Luna received campaign funds from and describe it as a "kickback" for the SCF laws.

"Follow the money." they say. Interestingly, the trail leads right back to the IEA!!! They are providing "kickbacks" to their chosen candidates!!!

The IEA is in bed with anyone and everyone that'll listen to their faux issues. Pay for performance benefits teachers. The technology portion of the laws benefits teachers.

The only entity that "suffers" under the SCF laws is the teacher's union--the same one that arbitrarily claims the laws harm teachers and students! The same one that recommends online continuing education for teachers; yet, opposes online courses for students!

And you wonder why they brought nothing to the education reform table?!? They brought nothing because they've got nothing. No ideas. No solutions. All they want are more dues paying members.

TowM8r's A Broken Record

Same old, same old...the IEA is evil and Tom Luna is your hero. No one is opposed to online cla$$es as an option, but only if the student or his/her parents want to pay for it. It's a waste of tax dollars to pay teachers, facilities, etc. and then MANDATE that taxpayers have to pay more for online cla$$es. That is not conservative thinking.

You are supporting reform for the sake of reform. Pay for performance sounds like a good idea, but the measurement for who gets paid leads to teaching low level rote memorization (teaching to the test) as opposed to critical thinking and problem solving skills. No, there are too many unanswered questions to jump on board that train.

Technology is improving so rapidly that laptops are on the verge of being outdated in just the time that this whole folly began. There is no way the state can monetarily keep up with the speed. Soon students will be asking to bring their own tablets so they don't have to deal with the dinosaurs of the past. I foresee a time when tablets will be on the student list of needs (along with rounded scissors and crayons).

Though I know it is impossible to get past your hatred of the IEA, I would hope you'd take more time to look at your conservative ideals and see the waste and long term implications of these reforms.

Have a nice day!

Too many unanswered questions...

Because you don't want to find the answers. Laptops weren't part of the law. "mobile computing devices" are part of it. Again, you're making something out of nothing, i.e., "technology is changing so fast we'll never keep up". This from a person still using rounded-scissors and crayons?

And, this is the good part, it's funded!

Listen to the garbage you're's downright comedic. "It's not about online vs's about a mandate." "The sky is falling and because we only know low-level rote memorization we'll all die."

The sky is falling alright...right down on the union.

You've got a few things wrong, Tow.

One: there is no solid data supporting the concept of "pay for performance". In fact, what data there is shows it to be ineffective in doing anything except lowering morale and raising stress.

Two: the way Idaho's system is structured, it's highly unlikely I'll ever see a nickel of that money, no matter how well I perform in the classroom, so the notion that this widely benefits teachers is just wrong.

Three, technology is fine, but I don't need more computers in my classroom. What I NEED is a new water-distillation center, some digital measurement tools, a lab-equipment overhaul, money to repair a bunch of hotplates, etc. For over a decade, state and federal funding has been so heavily earmarked that my district has nearly no discretionary funds left for these things. New digital devices are pretty far down my list of "things I need"; I can walk my students (literally) across the hall to a computer lab when we need them. I have my own laptop. So, again, the technology portion of the "reforms" doesn't actually benefit me OR my students all that much... anywhere between a third and half of my students have no home internet access. Down the road, my district (which has already adopted a four-day week, slashed hours for janitorial/maintenance services, frozen salaries, eliminated two-thirds of our paraprofessionals, trimmed bus routes, etc. trying to make ends meet) will have to find money to keep the school open evenings so those students, IF able to find transport, can use its internet connection.

Fourth: the IEA opposes the online MANDATE. If they volunteer, fine. FORCING students to use on-line curricula is a poor idea. Some kids do well with that delivery system, but I've seen seriously talented students struggle to pull "C"s on-line. This isn't to do with the courses being difficult, it's because the on-line model doesn't work for everyone. If students truly "come first", we should be (as much as possible) using instructional methods tailored to the individual student, not forcing them into a one-size-fits-nobody plan.

Fifth, there WAS no "education reform table". Mr. Luna deliberately excluded the IEA and classroom teachers from the back-room planning resulting in this scheme, because (as the Statesman reported at the time) he knew he couldn't get the law he wanted if he had to deal with a bunch of teachers.

Sixth, there are two teachers in my district who are IEA members, but there are NO teachers with a positive opinion of SCF. Not one. Not a single school-board member supports it. The community opposes it. Yet, we're forced to live with it because a truck-scale builder with zero teaching experience knows more about what my students and I need than I do. If he'd asked, I could have given him a half-dozen experience-based plans to make schools more effective, but he did not and does not want to hear from me, or anyone else with practical knowledge of Idaho's classrooms, IEA member or not.

Do these objections really sound "arbitrary" to you?

It's not an IEA thing. It's a teacher thing.

Nice response, Trackmonster

I appreciate your comments. Nicely done.

It's the IEA and only the IEA...

Check your sources. Penni Cyr, the IEA president, participated in the technology implementation planning.

You are right about one conclusion: It isn't an IEA's a union thing.

How does paying for performance hurt students? It doesn't.
How does implementing a technology infrastructure in our schools hurt students? It doesn't.
How does managing taxpayer's money better hurt students? It doesn't.
Did you buy your laptop with money from your salary? Wow, a raise is in your future. You won't have to buy another one.

I'll bet your classroom is as one-size-fits-nobody as your misguided conclusions. I mean, you're pretending to speak for all the teachers in Idaho "there are NO teachers with a positive opinion of SCF." And listen to your whining about the online "MANDATE" even describing it as "FORCING" students to use on-line curricula. Yes, you could say we "FORCE" students to get an education here in Idaho. You might want to be careful with the inevitable conclusion this leads to. Try giving your students a choice on whether or not they attend your class...maybe they'll opt out wholesale. We wouldn't want to be setting any boundaries for them now would we?

In case you've been living in a vacuum the past 4 years, the economy tanked. Tax revenues declined significantly. You had to tighten your belt too, huh? Welcome to the real world. You know, the one the union doesn't live in.

Students Come First = Obama Care

Politics = Money and Power. Does it matter if there is a R or a D behind the name?

Sorry, Tow... you've still got it wrong.

Penny Cry did in fact participate in the technology-planning process. So did one of my colleagues. On the other hand, if you reread my post, you'll see I was referring to the back-room creation of the underlying reform law. Mr. Luna only invited professionals into the process AFTER he'd gotten legal authorization for his scheme. He deliberately excluded them during the creation of his little post-election surprise.

"It isn't an IEA thing... it's a union thing"? That makes NO sense, even as a catch-phrase. It's not just the IEA that doesn't like this law, it's the teachers, administrators and school boards who have to live with it.

Pay for performance, as I said, has a history of raising stress-levels and lowering morale, while having little to no positive effect. You think teachers with less morale and more stress don't have a negative impact on students? There are many other options which would have the opposite effect, but Mr. Luna doesn't want to know from them.

Implementing technology doesn't hurt students, and I never said it would. My point is that there are LOTS of other things that would be more immediately helpful in schools, but we're going to spend the money on digital devices because it's the current fashion, not because they're the answer to an urgent need. A lot of my students need a digital device in school like a fish needs a bicycle.

Managing a school's budget is the job of the local school board, but thanks to the Republican majority in the legislature, they have almost no authority over the money they get for schools. There are so many strings attached to state and federal funds that they have almost no discretion over how that money is spent. The state mandates each child take at least two on-line ccourses, for which the provider will receive payment from the district AND two-thirds of that student's ADA money. This will certainly have a negative impact on the school's operating budget. Does this seem like sound management to you?

Yes, I bought my laptop with my own money. A raise in my future? Hah! I'll be retired before they unfreeze the salary-schedule in my district. And if you're equating a second laptop with a raise, you're nuts. A raise is something I can buy food with, not a backup for something I already own.

You're making a foolish bet: my number one professional goal is to provide every one of my students a learning path they best use. Do I accomplish this every single day for every single student? No. I'm not perfect, but I learn from successes AND failure, and try to get better every day. Unless you've been in my schoolroom, you have no idea what happens there.

If you read my post VERY carefully, you'll notice my comment about teachers not supporting SCF was referencing the teachers, board and administrators in MY SCHOOL DISTRICT. I do not presume to speak for the entire state, but I HAVE gotten a pretty good feel for local opinion. People here are not well pleased.

As far as the use of mandate" and "forcing" in discussing the on-line requirement, what else would you call it? A student can have a 4.00 GPA after taking the most challenging courses in a school's curriculum, but unless they take at least two courses on-line, they CAN'T GRADUATE in this state. On-line courses are tricky; not every student does well with them. Why should an honor student risk their GPA (and wind up paying more for college) simply to satisfy an arbitrary and capricious requirement like that? And no, they will not likely HAVE to take on-line coursework in college, if they attend a traditional college or university. (The for-profits like Stevens-Henagar and Phoenix are a different story.) They may have the option, but it won't likely be mandatory.

The price charged by many on-line course providers is scheduled to rise over the next few years, so schools will be more and more out-of-pocket to cover the cost of this program. As far as a student opting out of my room in favor of an online version, fine. Some students do well with that option and can create a better schedule for themselves that way. I'm perfectly OK with that. On the other hand, I've spent a significant amount of time before and after school (and during my prep) helping students with those online courses. The majority of my students are NOT impressed with them after their first experience. I'm not concerned that they'll stay away in droves. My concern is that each student learn as well as they are able.

Yes, the economy tanked. Yes, we've tightened our belts. On the other hand, for a decade before the economy went south, almost every increase in state funding to education went toward dealing with one or another aspect of No Child Left Behind. It went to training, test development, creation of statewide objectives, special consultants.... everywhere but the standard schooloom. That funding had been static for a decade BEFORE the economy went south. I teach science. My discretionary budget for that decade was roughly $300.00 per year, for two levels of chemistry, earth science and physics supplies. That's not a lot, but I stretched it as carefully as I could. For the last two years, I haven't made out any end-of-year purchase-orders because we haven't had any idea if we'd have the money I'd be spending. I find it interesting that so many people make casual use of the phrase "tighten your belt; the rest of us do" when they have no idea what's actually going on in the schoolroom, and how far the cuts have gone. We're not cutting fat; my district shed all that three years ago. We're past the muscle and into the bone.

Education is the infrastructure for our society. If you're putting up a building and run short of cash, do you decide to pour the foundation without re-bar to save a buck or two? Then use the money you've saved to buy a home-theatre system? That's a fair analogy for what's happening in Idaho's schools for the past several years. Give us the money at current funding levels and the authority to spend it on what we actually NEED and a lot of this current crisis disappears, without any extra money. Local control.... it's one of the Republicans' core values, and a pretty good one at that.

Great response Trackmonster...

As you know, one can be taught to read but still not understand. The IEA is like a red cape in front of a bull to some. I appreciate your dedication to teaching our children and sharing what is truly happening in the classroom.

Being Realistic

Probably the best path for the teachers in Idaho. Getting a few sensible conservative ( they are not all Denny's)legislators to work with the districts, schools and teacher is the best way to create a collaborative effort. To sit in the corner with a handful of Democrats and whine is a waste of time and will not produce any positive outcomes in this State. The most rural school districts are not interested in ideology...they are focused on the kids and the reality there is only so much money. They get it. If the Republicans control the discussion... then figure out how to be a credible participant rather than an adversary.


Kinda like the Christians cheering the lions.

I'll give Rick Jones credit...

...I don't know how "Republican" he really is, but he has already proved he is much more adept than Sherri Wood ever dreamt of being.

in other words

they went back and read your article, Dan, about how they should have focused more on electing legislators and less on electing a superintendent, and paid attention.