Tom Luna, a 43-year-old businessman from Nampa, Idaho, decided a year ago to run for the post of state superintendent of public instruction. But he had one big hurdle to clear: Under state law, he had to earn an undergraduate degree.
Mr. Luna left college in 1982 after two and a half years to work for Scales Unlimited, a local business with three employees. Three years later, he bought the business, which now has 25 employees and specializes in scales for such items as cattle and railroad cars.
Mr. Luna became involved in education when the school one of his six children attended was condemned by the city of Nampa as unsafe. He was incensed that the local school district was able to keep the building open for a year without making the needed repairs.
Mr. Luna decided to get involved, and won a seat on the local school board. He has served on the board for six years—three of them as the chairman.
Mr. Luna considered the upcoming November election at the urging of members of the Republican Party. He concluded: “If you are going to change education, what better way than to start from the top.”
That was when he found out that he needed to finish college. He plans to earn his liberal arts degree from Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J., by mid-March, in time to file campaign papers on March 25th. Through the college’s distance-learning program, Mr. Luna took classes online in evenings and on weekends.
His experience has sparked talk at his home about the value of education, said Mr. Luna, who hopes other people will follow his lead and complete college.
Meanwhile, if elected, Mr. Luna said he would back annual testing for every child in reading, writing, and mathematics. As he tells his customers: “If you can measure it, you can improve it.”
— Michelle Galley
A version of this article appeared in the February 06, 2002 edition of Education Week