BOISE – Republican Sherri Ybarra has narrowly won a second term as Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction, defeating Democratic challenger Cindy Wilson.
The race was too close to call for hours after Idaho’s polls closed Tuesday night. But Ybarra’s numbers pulled ahead as election officials continued to tally votes into the early hours Wednesday morning.
The position requires overseeing the state’s public school system. The superintendent of public instruction also serves on the five-member Idaho Land Board, which oversees 2.5 million acres of land to benefit state public schools.
Ybarra was a teacher and curriculum director before she was elected to Idaho’s top education post in 2014, beating out three other candidates in that year’s primary before going on to win the general election. She focused her efforts as the state superintendent on supporting school districts by allowing them more control over the direction they took locally.
Wilson is a longtime teacher who has taught in rural and urban classrooms and served on Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s education task force. Otter also appointed her to the Idaho Board of Correction, where she focused on improving education within the state’s prison system.
During their campaigns, both candidates said they would make boosting teacher pay a top priority. Idaho lawmakers approved the so-called “career ladder” program several years ago. The state is now four years into the five-year program that lawmakers created to raise teacher salaries in hopes of stemming the tide of educators leaving Idaho for more lucrative jobs in neighboring states. But both Ybarra and Wilson have said those efforts don’t go far enough, and both pledged to make better pay for teachers among their top priorities.
Wilson also promised to foster civic education, make sure that children in rural schools have the same opportunities as their urban peers, and improve access to early childhood education. Ybarra said she would work to boost graduation rates and increase safety for students.
Idaho remains far from its goal of having at least 60 percent of young adults obtaining a college degree or career training certificate, and the state ranks near the bottom nationally when it comes to per-student spending.
Updates with Ybarra winning re-election. Will be updated with reaction. With AP Photos.
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