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Posts tagged: Sherri Ybarra

Ybarra campaign on advanced degree: ‘She changed her mind’

Here’s a link to my full, updated story at on today’s news about state Superintendent of Public Instruction candidate Sherri Ybarra, who claimed for months that she expected to get a doctorate in education in August, giving her a top educational credential when she’d take office, if she’s elected in November. But in August, Ybarra had only been enrolled in the doctoral program at the University of Idaho for one semester. That month, she received an educational specialist degree, not a doctorate.

Ybarra’s campaign spokeswoman, Melinda Nothern, said there was no intentional misrepresentation. “She’s been working toward this for a long time,” Nothern said. Nothern said Ybarra decided to apply some of her credits toward the lesser degree in August, and keep working toward the doctorate. “She changed her mind,” Nothern said.

Jana Jones, Ybarra’s opponent in the election, who earned her doctorate in education at Idaho State University in 2001, said there’s “no way” to earn a doctorate in education in a single semester. She said, “I was working full-time, so it was supposed to be five years and it ended up being six.”

Ybarra campaign: Change in course of study led to different degree, still planning to pursue doctorate

Sherri Ybarra’s campaign spokeswoman, Melinda Nothern, said today that Ybarra had hoped to earn her doctorate in education by August, but instead changed her course of study and applied some of her credits toward an educational specialist degree, which she received in August. “She’s still enrolled and still working toward her doctorate,” Nothern said.

The university couldn’t immediately confirm that. The issue arose after Ybarra, who is running for Idaho state superintendent of schools, said throughout her campaign that she expected to receive her doctorate in August, then appeared to refer on her campaign website to the degree she did receive in August as a type of doctoral degree, though it was an educational specialist degree. Nothern said, “She still has a dissertation to do, she’s still actively going to pursue that, is pursuing that.”

University spokeswoman Andrea Barlow has confirmed that in the summer semester of 2014, Ybarra was enrolled in both the educational specialist program and the Ed.D doctorate program. In the spring semester of 2014, however, and in all semesters prior to that, she was enrolled only in the educational specialist program.

Idaho schools chief hopeful Ybarra earned specialist degree, not doctorate

Sherri Ybarra, the Republican candidate for Idaho state superintendent of schools, has claimed throughout her campaign that she was working on her doctorate in education at the University of Idaho and would receive it in August, but the university reports today that she instead received an educational specialist degree, not a doctorate. University spokeswoman Andrea Barlow said Ybarra was awarded an educational specialist degree with an emphasis in education leadership.

Ybarra’s campaign didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment; she now says on her campaign website that she received an “EdDs in Educational Leadership” in August of 2014. The U of I offers an Ed.D degree, a doctorate in education, and a Ph.D degree, a more research-based educational doctorate. It doesn’t offer a doctorate matching Ybarra’s description. Its educational specialist degree is referred to as an Ed.S degree.

Jerry Evans, former longtime Republican state superintendent of schools in Idaho, said, “There’s a lot of difference between an educational specialist and a doctorate.” He noted that the specialist degree is the certification that’s required to serve as a school district superintendent in Idaho; a doctorate is not required. “I had the specialist, but I didn’t have the doctorate,” he said. “It goes well beyond.” You can read my full story here at

The University of Idaho’s educational specialist degree requires 30 credits above a master’s degree, Barlow said. An Ed.D degree requires extensive additional study, exams, and a dissertation.

Idaho schools chief rivals spar over Luna legacy

Idaho’s current state superintendent of schools – the first non-educator ever to hold the position – loomed large in the debate Tuesday night between the two educators vying to succeed him. “If you liked Tom Luna, you’re going to love Sherri Ybarra,” Democratic candidate Jana Jones said of her GOP opponent. “We can’t afford to have another four years of a superintendent who is well-intended but ill-prepared.”

Ybarra also made some comments critical of Luna, a Republican who proposed a controversial set of school-reform laws that voters rejected in 2012. “Right now, I think that teachers are feeling very disrespected,” Ybarra said, “and I think they feel that the public does not support them and their leader does not support them. It’s important to remember that being on the front lines, I do support them.”

But she also said she’d “take the opportunity that our current leader has given me to transition in and spend two months closely studying” the school budget and the job. You can read my full story here at on tonight’s debate, which was broadcast statewide on Idaho Public Television. It included some agreement - on Idaho Core standards and restoring local control to school districts - but lots of disagreement, particularly on the school budget.

Closing comments from Jones, Ybarra

In their closing comments:

Jana Jones, Democratic candidate for state schools superintendent, said, “It’s been a great evening, and hopefully you understand the differences between the two of us.” She said. “The office shouldn’t be about politics and partisanship, it should be about doing what’s best for Idaho’s kids. And what I want for our kids is simple: I want safe schools, highly qualified teachers, modern up-to-date classrooms with technology that supports our teachers and our kids, and strong, rigorous stands that help prepare our kids for the future of their choice. My opponent said that she will carry forward Tom Luna’s agenda and walk side by side with the Legislature that has led our schools to the race to the bottom. I believe there’s a better way. It’s time to end the era of the one-size-fits-all top-down approach to educating our kids. My pledge to you is to return local control to our school boards, to our superintendents and our teachers, and to be the kind of superintendent that is inclusive and that will listen, and most importantly, provide leadership you can trust.”

Sherri Ybarra, the Republican candidate, said, “It was my pleasure to talk about one of my most favorite subjects which happen to be education. You really do have a stark difference in choices of candidates for this position. I am a conservative leader with a vision for the future. My opponent has the old tax and spend mentality. I have proven that my vision for Idaho works and that I will be a tireless advocate for our more than 250,000 students in grades K-12. I have a focus on maintaining what our kids need. I have been on the front lines with my sleeves rolled up earning the very respect of the team that I’m going to need to lead forward in education. And I think about our students, and how they deserve a state superintendent of public instruction who has been there for nearly 20 years on the front line, who has not taken a break from education, who has not been working in a business world and making those accusations about our current leader and doing the exact same thing.  I have a focus on our students, I will always maintain a focus on our students.” She then repeated, “I am a conservative leader with a vision for the future.”

Ybarra on voting history: ‘That’s my plan, is to repay Idaho’ as schools chief

Asked about her statement at an earlier debate that running for state superintendent is one way she can “repay” Idaho for having not voted in a general election since she moved to the state in 1996, GOP candidate Sherri Ybarra repeated that statement, during the “Idaho Debates” tonight on Idaho Public TV. “I think the questions was asked, what is your voting history, and I had put that right out there from Day 1 that it was pretty inconsistent and that I wanted to pay back Idaho,” Ybarra said. “That’s a civic duty. And if elected, this will be a civic duty that I will repay Idaho through for my lack of having a consistent voting history.”

“And I would be honored to do that,” Ybarra said. “And I think in moving forward, that’s what we do as Idahoans, we don’t focus on the negative and the past, we move forward, we recognize it and we say how can we make it better and what’s your plan. That’s my plan, is to repay Idaho.”

Schools chief rivals spar over state budget, funding for schools

Asked about the budget for Idaho’s schools, GOP candidate for state schools superintendent Sherri Ybarra said, “Money has nothing to do with achievement, there’s a lot of research out there about that. It’s better to be low and steady than to be erratic and be all over the map.”

Asked about her statement in an earlier debate that she’s support current Superintendent Tom Luna’s proposed budget for schools for next year, which calls for a 6.9 percent increase, Ybarra said, “That was Mr. Luna’s budget. … I know and understand that I can amend that at any time, and so I’m going to take the opportunity that our current leader has given me to transition in and spend two months closely studying that.” She said, “I do have an idea of a couple of places that I would like to look at that really would give … (control) back to local school districts. Local school districts know what they’re doing.”

Jana Jones, the Democratic candidate, said, “I understand the public school budget currently. … We don’t have time to wait a year for somebody to study and figure out where those things are going before those decisions are made. We need a superintendent that can get in there right now and get to work.” She said school districts are telling her that they don’t have the resources they need now.

Ybarra said the Legislature’s Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee supports her, but Jones said there are lots of members on JFAC and Ybarra hasn’t talked to all of them. “I’m sorry that my opponent is misinformed, and she doesn’t know who JFAC is, but they are listed on my website and they most certainly do support me,” Ybarra said.

Ybarra’s campaign website has been down much of the day, and is down now; while she has in the past listed a few lawmakers among her supporters there - including two members of the joint committee - JFAC has 20 members from both parties.

“I do know what JFAC is, I’ve actually testified in front of JFAC several times,” Jones told Ybarra, “and not every member of JFAC is on your website.”

Rivals for state schools chief debate how to improve student achievement

In the “Idaho Debates” tonight on Idaho Public TV, Republican Sherri Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones, the two candidates for Idaho state superintendent of public instruction, have debated questions about student achievement in reading, math and more. Among their responses:

Both Ybarra and Jones, asked how they’d improve student achievement in Idaho so Idaho’s students will be prepared for jobs, pointed to the new Idaho Core standards, saying Idaho needs higher standards for its students. “It’s an opportunity to do things different and improve,” Ybarra said.

Jones said Idaho’s math initiative has fallen short because the “new math” hasn’t been well enough explained to parents. “We need to work with our families a lot better, so that they can support their kids in a much more meaningful way when it comes to the math,” she said.

Jones said the state’s “star” rating system for school achievement isn’t working well, while Ybarra said it is. “You need to have multiple indicators of how a school is doing … not just one assessment,” Jones said. She called for working with school districts around the state to “let them help us define what that star rating should look like, what should be the indicators we use … rather than putting it on hold until we get SBAC results in the spring.”

Ybarra said, “The star rating, that was based on growth, and that fits in nicely with my platform of address the whole child. We all know that each one of our students is different. So the old method before, that was called Adequate Yearly Progress by the government … it fit every one of our students into a box … a certain score on the test. … So we applied for a waiver and we went to the growth model … which worked very well for the schools and they enjoyed it.”

Jones in debate: ‘If you liked Tom Luna, you’re going to love Sherri Ybarra’

In her opening comments in their live debate tonight, Democratic candidate for state school superintendent Jana Jones said of her GOP opponent, Sherri Ybarra, “She has said that she will carry on and move forward Tom Luna’s recommended budget, as well as move into the office right next door to him the day after the election so he could train her on how to do the job. If you liked Tom Luna, you’re going to love Sherri Ybarra. We can't afford to have another four years of a superintendent who is well-intended but ill-prepared.” Jones said, “I know what needs to be done and more importantly I know how to do it.”

Ybarra said, “I have nearly 20 years of experience on the front lines. … I have taken a team of teachers and students from failing status to four-star status, and that’s exactly what this job is about.”

Ybarra straightens out her marital history

Sherri Ybarra, the Republican candidate for Idaho superintendent of public instruction, is clarifying her marital history after she told an Idaho Statesman reporter she and her husband came to Mountain Home in 1996; it’s the same story she told me in an interview in August. But Statesman reporter Bill Roberts writes today that Ybarra now acknowledges that she and her husband, Matthew Ybarra, were married in 1999 after she and her previous husband were divorced following their move to Mountain Home in 1996.

Roberts said he contacted Roberts after receiving a call from a reader about the history laid out in his published story. Ybarra told Roberts she wasn’t trying to cover up her divorce; she said she does not consider her first husband family and didn’t make the distinction about her divorce when recounting her history. “My brain doesn’t operate in the past,” she said. Roberts’ full post is online here.

Roberts reports that Ybarra was vague about her first marriage, saying she doesn’t recall exactly how long she was married and doesn’t know precisely when she was divorced. “It’s been so long,” she said. In my August interview with her, Ybarra told me she and her husband had been together, “Oh, gosh, 16 years,” and said the couple arrived in Mountain Home in 1996 when her husband was in the military. “He did his time and that was the end of it,” she said, saying he’s now employed as a federal police officer for the Veterans Administration in Boise. She initially told Roberts she and her husband had been married “nearly 20 years;” she now says they will have been married 16 years in March. Her bio on her campaign website includes a photo of her with her husband “of 15 years” and their son. It says she “moved to Idaho in 1996 with the military,” but Ybarra told me in August that she never served in the military; only her husband did.

Roberts reports that Ybarra’s vagueness follows several other miscues during her campaign. She has failed to vote in most of the primary and general elections since coming to Idaho and she was accused of plagiarism by her Democratic opponent, Jana Jones, after portions of Jones’ website were copied onto Ybarra’s website; Ybarra later apologized.

After tonight’s rousing debate between schools chief hopefuls, they’ll face off again on Tuesday…

Here's a link to my full story at on tonight's debate between the two rivals to be Idaho's next state schools chief, Republican Sherri Ybarra and Democrat Jana Jones. The two will face off again on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Idaho Public Television as part of the “Idaho Debates,” co-sponsored by the Idaho Press Club and the League of Women Votes of Idaho and broadcast statewide.

Ybarra says she’s running for state schools chief in part to ‘repay Idaho’ for her failure to vote in any general elections since 1996

Republican candidate for state schools superintendent had a surprising answer tonight to the question as to why she’s passed on voting in 15 of the last 17 state elections, and has never cast a ballot in any state general election since she moved to Idaho in 1996, including elections for state superintendent of schools, governor and other offices, the advisory vote on the 2006 school funding tax shift and the 2012 referendum that overturned the “Students Come First” school reform laws championed by current Superintendent Tom Luna.

“It’s not new news that I’ve been sporadic with my voting history. We as Republicans accept responsibility for our past, and in moving forward we understand that our past should never dictate our future,” Ybarra said. “And I’m so glad you asked me that because that is one of the reasons that I’m here tonight. It is easy to complain about the past and get complacent. It is harder to step forward and say you know what, that’s why I’m here, because I have not been very good at my civic duties and I want to repay Idaho. … It will not happen again.”

When panelist Jim Weatherby asked Ybarra if she misled the audience at the earlier City Club of Boise debate when she explained away her failure to vote in the 2012 election on the school referendum by saying everyone misses an election now and then, Ybarra said, “It is not new news. I have put that out there from Day 1 and I again … accept full responsibility for that. That is the reason that I am here for you today. I want to repay Idaho, and do exactly what the people of Idaho are asking for. And I know under my leadership that I can build an excellent education system for Idaho schools.”

Democrat Jana Jones said, “I think it’s really important that when we look at leadership and how we define leadership, we look at people that are also role models for what we want our public and our students to be able to do.” Students should be “well-prepared academically,” but also in civics, she said, and “know the importance of being engaged in their community and voting. … I think as a superintendent, it’s important from that leadership all the way down through that you have someone who knows the importance of that civic duty. … I have always voted and always will continue to vote.”

Budget questions prompt big disagreements between superintendent hopefuls…

Budget issues have prompted big disagreements between the two candidates for state superintendent of schools in the KTVB debate tonight.

Asked if they support current Superintendent Tom Luna’s proposal for a 6.9 percent increase in funding for schools next year, Republican Sherri Ybarra said, “Until I know exactly where every dime is going it makes no sense to ask for more.”

Surprised moderator Dee Sarton asked if Ybarra was advocating for no increase for schools in next year’s budget. Ybarra then said she’s support current Superintendent Tom Luna’s budget. “The budget that is already being prepared is the one that if elected I will actually take on,” Ybarra responded. “It is a step in the right direction.”

Jones said, “No, it would not be the budget that I would be proposing. … There’s only $10 million that is currently proposed in that budget, from what I can understand, from the way it’s written, that will go to getting us back to that restoration of funding that is the No. 1 recommendation in the governor’s task force,” she said. “So we need to look at that budget very closely. We need to remove some of the ties that are in that budget. … It hamstrings those districts very closely. It says you can only use your funding for these specific things. We need to take that budget, remove those strings where we can, and make sure that we’re advocating for as much money as possible for our schools. Our schools need to be the No. 1 priority.”

When Sarton asked Jones what percentage increase she’d favor, Jones said, “I have been waiting to see what the … revenue projections would be. … We need to make sure that we take advantage of what resources the state has.”

Ybarra, in response to a question about her political philosophy, said, “We need somebody that’s a conservative leader that knows stretching the dollar and living within your means is the way you move forward.”

Superintendent candidates clash from the very opening…

As the KTVB debate for state superintendent of schools kicked off tonight, Republican Sherri Ybarra said in her opening remarks that she was glad to address “one of my most favorite” topics, education. “I am a certified superintendent. I do hold three degrees and I was nominated for teacher of the year twice,” she said. “I took a failing school to four-star status.” Ybarra said she wants to press for her vision for addressing “the whole child,” including testing that’s not just a snapshot, “21st century abilities and safety and support.”

Democrat Jana Jones said she has a doctorate in educational leadership, six certifications and 40 years of experience. “I know what needs to be done and more importantly, I know how to do it,” she said. “You’re never going to hear a candidate for state superintendent say that they would like to see unsafe schools or bigger class sizes. … But what you won’t hear is how she’s going to do it, and if the last eight years have taught us anything, it’s that we can’t afford to have four more years of a superintendent who is well intended but ill-prepared.”

Ybarra has skipped 15 of the last 17 state elections, including every general election since she moved to Idaho

Sherri Ybarra, the Republican candidate for state superintendent of schools, has skipped at least 15 of the last 17 state elections, Idaho Education News reports, and hasn’t voted in a November general election since she moved to Mountain Home in 1996. “We have all missed an election or two in our lifetime, and I am not exempt from that,” Ybarra said during a Sept. 26 City Club of Boise candidate forum, responding to questions about why she didn’t vote in the 2012 general election, when the controversial “Students Come First” school reform laws championed by current Superintendent Tom Luna were on the ballot; voters repealed the laws.

But when Idaho EdNews checked further, it found that Ybarra registered to vote on June 16, 2010, but did not vote in that year’s general election, nor in any other general election in Idaho since 1996. Elmore County records did show she voted in GOP primary elections in May 2012 and May 2014, in a city election in 2011 and in a Mountain Home School District levy election earlier this year.

Jana Jones, the Democratic candidate for superintendent, has voted in every general election since 2002, when Bonneville County officials first started tracking voting histories, EdNews reporter Clark Corbin found. Jones also voted in state primary elections in 2006, 2010 and 2014; you can read Corbin's full report here.

Not actually Basque…

When little-known candidate Sherri Ybarra won a four-way GOP primary race for state superintendent of public instruction in May, some speculation focused on her Basque-sounding last name as an advantage in the race. Basques are one of Idaho’s more colorful longtime ethnic minorities; they're also known for winning Idaho elections, as Basques have held the Idaho Secretary of State’s office for the last half-century, in the form of current Secretary Ben Ysursa and predecessor Pete Cenarrusa.

Asked about it, Ybarra said she’s not Basque, but her husband’s ancestors were, way back. “That is the No. 1 Basque name,” she said. “It’s a lot like ‘Smith.’ ” I wrote about this and other topics in my Sunday column this week, which is online here.

Of stakeholders, taxes, and starving schools…

Here's a link to my full story at on today's debate at the City Club of Boise between the two candidates for state superintendent of schools. After the debate, I asked former Superintendent Jerry Evans for his impressions. Evans, a Republican, hasn’t endorsed either of the two candidates in the race, Democrat Jana Jones or Republican Sherri Ybarra. Evans said, “Both of them make a strong point about engaging a broad array of stakeholders, which is encouraging to me. I think they both made that point rather clearly.”

“I was a little surprised,” he said, “that Sherri kind of ducked the question of the issue of sales tax on out-of-state sales. I thought they both would say, ‘We ought to explore every opportunity to come up with money for our state’s schools.’”

Current GOP Superintendent Tom Luna has been advocating collecting more of the sales taxes owed on online purchases for the past several years as a way to increase funding for schools; Idaho requires the taxes be paid, but people are “virtually on the honor system,” in the words of today’s debate moderator, Jim Weatherby. Idahoans are supposed to report their online purchases and pay the taxes after the fact on their state income tax returns, but few do.

Asked if they’d push to go after sales taxes on Internet sales to better fund schools, the candidates had differing responses. “I don’t think that there’s a superintendent in this room that wouldn’t want more money for education,” Ybarra said. “If I had a humongous pot of money that was never-ending, it would never be enough. But … it is the responsibility of the legislators to decide the tax formula, and how they provide a thorough education. And I will be a champion and standing alongside them to make sure that that happens, adequate funding in education.”

Jones said, “This has been discussed several times in our Legislature, and it’s something that I think we absolutely should explore and take a look at. Again, the legislators are the ones who decide what we tax, what we don’t tax, where we cut, where we don’t cut. But it’s really critical that we make Idaho’s public schools and our children our No. 1 priority, and as a state superintendent I will strongly advocate for those kids to be No. 1 up front with every legislator.” She added, “I will advocate and work with our Legislature on any way that we can ensure that we have funding for our public schools going forward.”

Evans said, “I think when you’re starving to death, you look at every opportunity to find something for that table.”

Jones, Ybarra each say they’re the leader Idaho schools need

In their closing comments at today’s City Club of Boise debate, the candidates, Democrat Jana Jones and Republican Sherri Ybarra each said they’re the leader Idaho’s schools need. “You know we only get one chance to educate our kids and we owe it to them to get it right the first time,” Jones said. “This isn’t a Democratic value, it’s not a Republican value. Education should be and it is a strong Idaho value. I believe very deeply in the greatness of Idaho, having been born and raised here, educated here, I know this is the best place in the country to live. And I believe we can rebuild an education system that’s worthy of it.” She added, “The next superintendent has a lot of work to do. Vital programs have been cut, budgets have been cut, classrooms are overcrowded, local control has been lost.” She said, “We need to get moving forward. … I pledge to you today that I will always be the advocate for our kids and our schools, that I will trust our communities to make the best decisions … and I will provide the kind of leadership that is inclusive, transparent, accountable and most importantly, leadership that you can trust.”

Ybarra kept her closing comments shorter. “You really do have a stark difference in choices in candidates for this position,” she said. “I will be the candidate who is the conservative leader, who will be a tireless advocate for our children, over 250,000 in grades K-12 to always focus on adequate funding and a vision for the future. I have the energy level and the enthusiasm and the skill set. I am in the prime of my career and I want to help you build an excellent education system for our kids.”

How to recruit, retain teachers…

Asked about how Idaho could better recruit and retain teachers, Democrat Jana Jones told the City Club of Boise that she saw districts starting school this year with vacant teaching positions, having to fill in with student teachers or long-term substitutes. An Idaho teacher, she said, “can drive over the Teton Pass and get a $20,000 raise immediately, just walking in the door. We are not competitive.”

Republican Sherri Ybarra said teachers across the state “all say the same thing to me – the money is nice, and of course … if elected I will do everything I can.” But, she said, they say, “The money’s nice – I want to be respected for the work that I do. So tiered licensure is a step in the right direction. I think we need to make sure that the message that we send, though, is that we offer a supportive working environment, lots of training, and welcome to Idaho to join our vibrant team of professionals.”

Jones, Ybarra spar on resources, party, standards…

Asked if, as a member the Democratic minority, she can work with the GOP-dominated Legislature, state schools superintendent candidate Jana Jones said, “We’ve had eight years of leadership under the same party and look where we are today. It’s important that we have someone who can stand up and advocate for leadership … for our kids and our schools.” She said, “I can do it by staying focused on our kids.”

Republican candidate Sherri Ybarra said, “I will be an advocate for students for adequate funding, and what is not adequate funding is large classroom size, not having the supplies at the classroom level, and some of those districts that are on four-day work weeks.”

Asked why Idaho’s schools are falling short, Jones said educators in Idaho “are telling me that we do not have adequate resources to do the things we need  to do in our school districts. … It’s really absolutely critical that we come to agreement on what these schools need.”

Ybarra said, “I think it’s a fallacy that we are last in the nation for achievement. We are last in the nation for funding, I’ll give you that. … We are stagnant in achievement. We as Idahoans stood up and decided that we needed new standards to address that.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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