A commercial opposing Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's controversial education reform measures in Idaho that was filmed at Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Caldwell has drawn the ire of reform supporters, who maintain politics and public schools should not coincide.
Three education reform propositions are the subject of a Nov. 6 recall bid. According to the Associated Press, they would limit collective bargaining rights for teachers, implement merit pay and eventually grant a laptop to every high school teacher and student.
The 30-second ad filmed by teachers union Idaho Education Association urges voters to reject the measures, claiming they ignore teacher concerns. The Spokesman-Review reports the commercial also highlights how budget cuts have prompted teachers to “spend their own money on supplies for our kids.” Previous research has found that teachers nationwide spend up to $1,000 on necessity items for their students, a total of $1.3 billion.
Caldwell School District Superintendent Tim Rosandick told KTVB he approved the Idaho Education Association’s request to film the commercial before the start of the school year in August. He said he was under the impression the ad would not imply any endorsement by the school district.
But a sign identifying “Wilson Elementary School” is visible in the background of one shot. Rosandick called the inclusion of Wilson’s name “regrettable,” according to KTVB. Neither he nor the school’s principal, Taylor Raney, have taken a public stance on the three propositions.
The AP reports that had reform advocates asked to use the school’s facilities for a similar purpose, their request would have also been granted, Rosandick said, due to Wilson Elementary’s policies allowing for the use of its public facilities by outside organizations.
Republican state Sen. Jim Rice — also a parent in the district and volunteer on the district policy committee — had a different take on the matter, telling KTVB that no political group — pro- or anti-reform — should have been filming inside a public school.
"They shouldn't have done it," he told the station. "I think that's really inappropriate. Our schools really shouldn't be used for partisan ads.”
The AP reports Rice went on to say that there are costs, however minimal, associated with using the facilities — such as lights — and that taxpayer resources should not be used to support the referendum.
According to KTVB, the “Vote No on Props 1, 2, 3” campaign did not have to pay to use the school, which is standard according to Rosandick. The superintendent has not asked the campaign to alter or pull the ad, and campaign consultant and State Rep. Brian Cronin says they are not planning to edit the commercial.