BOISE -- Thursday, lawmakers took the first step in reforming public education in Idaho.
The Senate Education Committee approved the three bills under Superintendent Tom Luna s reform plan.
It has been the subject of intense debate at the statehouse and in all corners of the state and also sparked physical and property attacks on the plan's founder.
After the vote, Luna said he and his staff were excited that the plan passed the first hurdle.
He introduced the education reforms to the Senate Education Committee earlier this month, amid strong opposition from some parents, teachers and lawmakers
Luna cut his plan to require students take eight online courses in half and made other changes, clarifying that schools don't have to increase classroom sizes. Instead, they could lower teacher pay to help pay for the reforms.
Luna said as a result of the changes, some senate education leaders felt more comfortable with the plan and supported it.
Obviously, I'm very pleased with the outcome of the vote. Understand that is a very, very important step but it is just a step, Luna said. Students Come First is good legislation but it is also big legislation. And it requires people wanting a lot of answers to important questions and that's what we'll continue to do.
While the changes Luna made to the legislation alleviated some lawmaker concerns, they did little to appease the state teachers union.
Idaho Education Association President Sherri Wood said Thursday, From the beginning, the Luna plan's fatal flaw has been the lack of stakeholder involvement.
During a taping for Viewpoint on Thursday, Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, who is also a member of the Senate Education Committee, said this is the first stage in moving Tom Luna's proposal forward.
This will evolve over some years and you realize is that he has to have a task force that he wants to put together to deal with the laptop issue, or the computers, the technology side of it. So I think from that aspect, there s still some things to play out here over the next 12 to 18 months, said Senator Winder.
Senator John Andreason of Boise was the only Republican to join the two Democrats on the Senate Education Committee in voting against all three bills of the reform plan.
Republicans who backed Luna's plan noted the unprecedented level of public testimony on it.
They said while there are some concerns, they believe the proposed overhaul needs to go before more lawmakers.
The bill now heads to the full Senate.
And that body will take it up as soon as next week
Should it pass the Senate, it would be favored to pass the house and then signed off by the Governor. He has already thrown his support behind the plan.