Union Unrest in Idaho

Few elected officials have tasted the vitriol that public-employee unions are spewing against Gov. Scott Walker these days. But Tom Luna is one of them.

The superintendent of public instruction in Idaho, Luna has offered a bill to the state legislature to reform the Gem State’s education system. It is a teacher union’s worst nightmare: The legislation phases out tenure, removes seniority as a criterion for layoffs, makes student achievement at least 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation, and includes a pay-for-performance bonus. But wait, there’s more: Luna’s bill would require the state to publish a “fiscal report card,” so parents could go online and evaluate their school district by the numbers: average teacher salary, expenditure per child, administrative expenses, etc. To top it all off, the bill would mandate that towns hold teacher-contract negotiations in the open. “I think this is probably the most comprehensive package that is working its way through a state legislature in the country,” Luna tells National Review Online.

And the unions are miffed. Over 1,000 people protested the bill at the statehouse on Monday. Yet that demonstration was relatively tame. A little over a week ago, Luna awoke to find his car had been vandalized.

Some protesters have even menaced his family. “The thing that concerned me most was the first incident when a teacher showed up at my mom’s house,” Luna says. “Like in Wisconsin, we’ve had union representatives and others putting people’s home addresses and phone numbers on websites and Facebook profiles. And they’ve actually encouraged people to go to these addresses of people with whom they don’t agree and if they’re not home, to go to their neighbors’ home. That’s way out of line.”

Luna notes his experience is rather similar to Walker’s: “When you look at what the union in Wisconsin is saying about what’s happening in Wisconsin, the talking points are almost the same thing the unions in Idaho are saying: teachers are scapegoats, nobody discussed this during the campaign, the legislation is moving too fast, it’s all about corporate fat cats. It’s obvious that the plans are different but the push back and the talking points are the same.”

Still, Luna is thankful that unlike many Wisconsinite teachers, most Idahoan teachers have stayed in the classroom: “I guess Idaho is fortune that our teachers for the most part have chosen to stay in the classroom and educate children and we haven’t seen a disruption in our school days as they experienced in Wisconsin. In Idaho, I firmly believe that our union leaders are completely out of touch with the Idaho electorate and in many cases with their own members.”

As Luna’s experience shows, Walker’s headache today could be a national convulsion tomorrow.