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News >  Idaho

Ybarra says she’s seeking state office in part to ‘repay Idaho’ for her past civic lapses

BOISE - Republican candidate for Idaho state schools superintendent Sherri Ybarra said in a televised debate Wednesday night that she’s running for the office in part to “repay Idaho” for her own failure to vote in any Idaho general election since she moved to the state in 1996. “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.” Idaho Education News revealed Ybarra’s full voting record on Wednesday; she had earlier defended her failure to vote in the 2012 election in which Idaho overturned a controversial package of school laws by saying that everyone misses an election from time to time. When KTVB-TV debate panelist Jim Weatherby asked Ybarra if she misled the audience at the earlier City Club of Boise debate with her earlier explanation, 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.” Democratic candidate 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.” Idaho Education News reported Tuesday that Ybarra skipped 15 of the last 17 state elections, and failed to vote in elections for state superintendent of schools, governor and other offices, the advisory vote on the state’s 2006 school funding tax shift and the 2012 referendum that overturned the “Students Come First” school reform laws championed by current Superintendent Tom Luna. The two candidates also clashed on budget issues, during their debate that was broadcast live from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa. Asked if they support current Luna’s proposal for a 6.9 percent increase in funding for schools next year, 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 Luna’s budget. “The budget that is already being prepared is the one that if elected I will actually take on,” Ybarra said. “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 she was waiting to see the state revenue projections. “We need to make sure that we take advantage of what resources the state has,” she said. Both candidates backed Idaho’s new Common Core standards for student achievement, though Ybarra said she has some concerns about testing. Jones said she’d convene a broad task force to review the standards and propose changes if needed. Ybarra is a federal programs director and curriculum director in the Mountain Home School District, and a former classroom teacher. Jones is the former chief deputy state superintendent, and worked under three state superintendents from two parties; she’s also a former classroom teacher.
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