It didn't quite approach the level of dancing in the street, but state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's announcement Monday that he wouldn't be seeking election was greeted with great joy in many quarters, especially those involving school administrations and teachers.
Currently, there are two candidates who had already planned to run against Luna, both of whom would bring a breath of fresh air to the position. Luna, after all, never really liked public education and the programs and budgets he pushed through the legislature clearly reflected that. One newspaper in a conservative area of eastern Idaho called him the worst superintendent in the history of the state.
Both of the candidates who are already positioned to run are supporters of public education.
One is Democrat Jana Jones, a former teacher and director of Gov. Ceil Andrus' Office of Children. She also served as chief deputy to two-term Superintendent of Public Instruction Marilyn Howard. She's smart and engaging.
Unfortunately, she's also a Democrat and while this is one of the few statewide races that Democrats could actually win, you can bet the state party won't fund this race adequately, preferring to pour its treasure into a doomed attempt to get some unknown to challenge highly popular Gov. Butch Otter. So, while qualified, the odds are against her to win.
The other candidate is Republican Randy Jensen, who originally intended to battle Luna in the primary. At first glance, Jensen looks like an excellent choice.
A long-time educator in the American Falls schools, he's a former national Principle of the Year. And in his initial announcements, he talked about the need to support local educators and school boards, not dictate to them, which is largely what has happened during the Luna administration.
Policies that return funding flexibility and local control to local school boards are welcome at any time.
As a Republican, he naturally has a good chance to win in Idaho.
In either case, for the first time in a long time, Idaho voters may have a choice to elect candidates who actually believe in public education -- and that alone is a refreshing change for the better.
-- Kelly Everitt