For the past two years, officials from the Department of Education have spent a good chunk of time promoting the “No Child Left Behind” Act of 2001.
Secretary of Education Rod Paige last year barnstormed the country, touting the virtues of President Bush’s plans for public education and its emphasis on standards and assessment. And just last week, the department noted in a press release, a phalanx of ranking department officials hit the road “educating parents, teachers, and education professionals” on the law’s details.
Now, the agency has a new emissary. Tom Luna, a small-business owner from Nampa, Idaho, on March 17 was named a special assistant to Undersecretary of Education Eugene W. Hickok. Mr. Luna’s new job pays $123,388 a year.
According to his official job description, Mr. Luna, 44, will be responsible for conducting policy analysis and research, and, despite his continued residence in Idaho, will have a “confidential relationship” with the undersecretary in which he will be aware of the undersecretary’s “personal, political, and management philosophies.”
Back in Idaho, Mr. Luna runs Scales Unlimited Inc., where, the company’s logo claims, “accuracy is the only weigh.” For six years, he served on the school board of the 11,500-student Nampa school district. And he served on two state commissions that developed Idaho’s standards and accountability systems.
Last year, Mr. Luna ran for state superintendent of public instruction, unsuccessfully, making him the only Republican to lose a statewide Idaho race in 2002.
His new position is “pure political payback,” said Jade Riley, the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party.
Not so, said Daniel Langan, a spokesman for the department.
“Mr. Luna has a strong and extensive background in the public and private sector,” he said.
Mr. Luna will meet with various officials and organizations nationwide to help them understand the complex No Child Left Behind law, Mr. Langan said.
Mr. Luna will act as a “roving ambassador,” Deputy Secretary of Education William D. Hansen, who hails from Idaho, told a newspaper in the state, the Lewiston Morning Tribune.
Meanwhile, Mr. Luna told Idaho papers he will run for chief state school officer again in 2006.
The new federal job, Mr. Riley said, “is something he can put on his résumé, in his leaflets, and on his commercials.”