TWIN FALLS — The governor is urging Idaho’s business community to back new education laws being targeted in a referendum campaign.

A group of parents and teachers who want to overturn the changes authored by public schools chief Tom Luna have handed in more than 74,000 signatures on each of their three petitions to put the education laws to referendum votes next year.

The Idaho Secretary of State’s office issued official certificates Monday placing three referendums on the November 2012 ballot.

Gov. Butch Otter defended the new laws Tuesday while attending the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry’s annual conference in Twin Falls. Otter lauded the group for supporting the education changes during the 2011 Idaho Legislature, the Times-News reports.

“The results were the three bills that we finally got through with your help, with your assistance, with your faith, and now they’re under attack,” Otter said. “So I need that same energy that you helped us with in the Legislature this last session.”

The changes signed into law this year limit union bargaining rights, introduce merit pay and shift money from funding for salaries to classroom technology. They took effect immediately after being signed.

Otter and Luna have both fielded criticism because they didn’t mention the sweeping education changes while running for re-election last year. Luna unveiled the proposal in January and surprised many as he outlined the biggest rewrite of Idaho’s public education system in recent memory.

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