Election Results

Superintendent of Public Instruction

Candidate Votes Percentage
Cindy Wilson (D) 288,666
49%
Sherri Ybarra (R) 305,793
51%

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Survey Responses

Party
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
Republican
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Democrat
Education
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
Ed.S. in Educational Leadership (with an Emphasis in the Superintendency), MA in Educational Leadership, BA in Elementary Education
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
AA Ricks College, BA Boise State
Occupation and relevant work experience
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Instruction. Prior to winning the election to my first four-year term, I served nearly 20 years in Idaho education including: District Curriculum Director, Federal Programs Director, Vice-Principal, Principal, and Classroom Teacher.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
33 Year Educator, Idaho Law Foundation LRE Member, Idaho Youth & Government State Committee Member, Wassmuth Center on Human Rights Education Committee Member, Sandra Day O'Connor National iCivics Teachers Council, School Instructional Lead, District Curriculum Developer Team Member, International Education Team Member, Youth Government and Political Action Club Advisor
Past political experience and campaigns
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
In May 2014, I successfully sought the Republican nomination for Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction and in November 2014, I won the general election for the position. I’ve served as Superintendent, and as a member of the Idaho Land Board, since January 2015. This past May, I won the Republican primary on the way to a second term.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Appointed by Governor Otter to Idaho Education Reform Task Force on K-12 and Idaho Board of Correction
Have you ever filed for bankruptcy for yourself or for your business? If yes, please tell us when and the circumstances.
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
No.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
No
Have you been convicted of any misdemeanor or felony charges? (Traffic citations not included). If yes, what were the convictions and the circumstances?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
No.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
No
Why are you running for this office?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
Under my leadership these past (nearly) four years, our plan to improve education is getting results. For example, Idaho’s students’ math and reading skills are improving, our graduation rates are up, and thousands of students are getting a jump start on higher education by earning college credits while still in high school. Our public schools are headed in the right direction. And, it’s essential for the future of our more than 300,000 students that the positive momentum continues. Idaho’s schools need an experienced, effective advocate and I have a proven track record of success. I am eager to continue my efforts to improve teacher pay, school safety, student performance and student-centered instruction in both rural and urban settings.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Idaho needs a strong voice for our most precious resource, our children. For the past 33 years, I've been showing up for students in my classroom. I'm frustrated at the lack of leadership to advocate for the needs of our most vulnerable, our children. The Idaho Constitution clearly declares that our state must "establish and maintain a general, uniform, and thorough system of public, free common schools." The state Superintendent's job should be to ensure that happens. To put it simply, I want to stand up for kids.
What are your top three priorities if elected?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
My highest priorities will be on building the momentum in our continuing efforts to end Idaho’s educator shortage and improve teacher pay, boost student achievement and graduation rates, and increase safety for our students through the Keep Idaho Students Safe Initiative.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Every child in Idaho deserves the highest quality education possible. By focusing on three major challenges, we can make that happen and move Idaho up from the bottom of national rankings where we have been for the past four years. First, we should improve student learning and there are multiple ways to make that happen, but most importantly, we must help children find the fun in education. Our schools need the flexibility to become playgrounds of learning. Second, great teachers make a tremendous difference in student growth, so we must keep our master teachers in Idaho's classrooms and give them the resources they need to be successful. Also more needs to be done to interest the next generation in an education career path. Finally, research clearly tells us that preschool education helps students succeed. When students don't have that early education opportunity, they are behind their peers from the very beginning. Every child deserves a chance to be successful in school.
Why should voters select you over your opponent(s)?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
Experience matters. I came into this job with school and district level management experience that my opponent lacks, but my on-the-job experience as the state’s Chief Education Officer has been invaluable. As superintendent I’ve led a large department on which all Idaho schools and students depend for services, support and expertise. I’ve forged relationships with lawmakers, officials in Idaho and elsewhere, and educators throughout rural and urban districts. I’ve successfully advocated for budget priorities, turned a vision into achievable initiatives and maximized the effectiveness of a great staff of experts who help shape and advance that vision. My team and I are eager to build on our track record of success that includes increasing Idaho education funding by nearly $100 million each year since I took office, boosting graduation rates and test scores and saving the state nearly $6 million each year in internet costs.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
I show up for kids! Children need someone to advocate for them, to speak up for them. For the last 33 years, I've been speaking up for what's best for students and working to promote teachers. I believe in collaborating to find the best solutions to helping children learn. That means turning to education experts and using teachers who are in the classroom working directly with children and parents to determine what's best for every individual child. I believe in modeling behavior that we want students to use themselves - honesty, kindness, respect for others, and participation in our democracy. I'm a lifelong Idahoan who has taught in the smallest and largest schools in Idaho. I understand the needs of our rural and urban districts and how they differ. I've lived in all regions of this state and know that there is an uneven playing field in the quality of education one finds depending on where one lives. That needs to change and I have a vision on how to make it happen.
Is Idaho teacher pay sufficient to recruit and retain high-quality teachers?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
Not yet, but we’re making real progress. The Career Ladder was the No. 1 priority of key education stakeholder groups. Continuing to improve teacher pay is the key priority in the budget I’ll present to the Idaho legislature this winter, with increases ranging from 3.9% to 16% at each rung of the Career Ladder. The Career Ladder first focused on boosting starting salaries for new teachers to attract more to the profession. Now, we must focus on experienced teachers who help our schools excel, both to recognize their commitment and expertise, and to keep them from moving to other states with deeper pockets. Attracting and retaining great teachers is one of my three top goals for the next four years. In addition to advocating for better pay, we’ll do this by gathering data on Idaho’s teacher shortage, supporting meaningful alternative routes to filling teaching positions, and further streamlining departmental processes.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
No, Idaho teacher salaries are not competitive with surrounding states. We have some of the best teachers in the nation. But teacher turnover is costing the state $6 million a year. Five years ago, the Governor's Task Force, on which I served, recommended a career ladder which was meant to recruit and retain great teachers, but we still have not met that funding guideline. Budget requests have continually fallen short of what's needed and that's hurting our kids. Our current Superintendent has had four years to work on this issue and it has only gotten worse. It's time for change. We expect more and more of our hard-working teachers. Idaho has take care of our students by providing the necessary means to recruit and keep great teachers in ALL of Idaho's school districts!
Should Idaho fund pre-K education?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
A higher priority is to better fund our existing K-12 system to reach a more competitive salary for teachers and ensure our children are safe. While we invest in these priorities, Idaho should eliminate barriers that prevent school districts from going beyond just offering pre-K services to children qualifying for special education. This would allow preschool to grow at a grassroots level rather than some top down mandate from the state. Leaders in school districts can accomplish amazing things when they’re empowered to innovate instead of constrained by bureaucracy.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Yes, 85% of Idahoans support public preschool. They know it provides opportunities to learn which many families can't afford. It represents critical interventions in early years for special learning needs and disabilities. The hidden costs of ignoring preschool is the rehabilitation in the middle years and a bulging incarceration rate for those who were left behind in school. Right now, there is a large gap between students who have attended preschool and full day kindergarten and those who come to first grade without those experiences. That isn't fair to children. Districts that have individually invested in preschool programs have shown student growth and positive results because of it. Too many of our children are being left behind because of where they live and that hurts all of Idaho.
Is Idaho on the right path toward improving K-12 education, or does the state's education approach need an overhaul?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
Idaho is on the right path -- reading and math achievement is up, graduation rates are improving, thousands of high school students are earning college credits while in high school, and our students compare well to their counter parts in other states. Is there more work to do? Absolutely!
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
I don't know if the word overhaul is appropriate, but after traveling this state far and wide, I know that there are many areas for improvement in our education system. Our obsession with cutting costs has left our buildings dilapidated and our classrooms underfunded. Too many districts today rely on supplemental levies, paid for by local property owners. This money is not supplemental at all, but is necessary to just maintain schools. Supplemental levies account for millions of dollars over the amount dispersed by the general fund and put an unfair burden on a local community of property owners. We need to fund education properly. We need buildings that meet the needs of 21st century learners, prepared for safety and technology advances. Idaho needs to decide what's next for our future. We should continue to push to complete the Task Force's proposals and then work on a vision for what the next 5 - 10 years should bring for our children's learning.
When presenting budget requests to the state Legislature, should the superintendent of public instruction be more aggressive in seeking more money for education?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
My requests for public school funding have been aggressive and successful securing $100 million more for our schools each of the past three years.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
The education budget submitted to the legislature should always be a "needs-based" budget. In other words, Idahoans must decide what a quality education looks like, then determine what we need to make that happen for every single child. Finally, research what that will cost and request that amount from the legislature. That's just good business and it isn't what is currently happening. Last year, the Governor's budget requested more dollars than the state Superintendent's. That's an example of an education leader who is out of touch with the needs of Idaho students. The Superintendent's budget includes political side projects with no buy-in and continually wastes taxpayer dollars. I pledge to take sacred the responsibility to use taxpayer dollars effectively.
Should Idaho create a state fund to support the construction of new K-12 schools?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
This idea represents a substantial policy change for Idaho that would require significant review of our existing tax policies and a frank public discussion led by the Idaho Legislature with school boards, county officials, parents, other education stakeholders and taxpayers. Rapid population growth and the need to fund facilities are huge issues in many Idaho districts, and we need to look at ways to better address that need.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
All over Idaho, we have schools that were built 50 - 100 years ago. These schools were not built with 21st century safety, technology, or student needs in mind. Putting the burden on rural districts with small tax bases to fund the entire amount of constructing new buildings has not worked in the past. It leaves some school districts building new schools while others struggle to ever pass a bond. That is not the uniform and thorough education opportunity guaranteed by Idaho's Constitution. We should look at how to provide every student an equal opportunity for a safe, technology equipped building. Maybe that includes some kind of matching fund between community and state or maybe there are other possibilities that we can consider. Let's bring education and community leaders together to partner on how to best meet the building needs of every school district in our state. No one child should be left behind because of where he or she lives.
Should Idaho reduce the threshold for voter approval of local bonds from a two-thirds majority?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
Yes, although so far, this has not been a priority of stakeholders when crafting the public schools budget. I would favor that move.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Idaho should consider dropping our two-third majority requirement for school bonds to a 60% majority requirement. That is still a super-majority for taxing purposes, but it doesn't allow a minority of naysayers to dictate what a majority of a community's residents want for their children. Too many districts across Idaho are struggling with dilapidated school buildings today, unable to pass a bond because of poor economic conditions and a small tax base in their community. Since 2006, Idaho has continued to put more and more of a burden on local property owners and that needs to change. The state should provide a general fund that doesn't place such a hardship on local property taxpayers.
What role should charter schools play in Idaho?s public education?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
I support school choice and enjoy a great relationship with our charter schools. My charter school division in the department works alongside and closely with our charter community; but charter schools were invented so we could learn from their flexibility and innovation, I believe the next step is to remove the shackles from our traditional public schools so we can be part of that positive culture they enjoy. Because innovation should never end, I believe charter schools will continue to be integral in advancing our education system.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Charter schools provide parents choices in where their children go to school. The original intent was for charter schools to provide cutting edge, innovative strategies to education that could be transferred to traditional public schools. When the decision was made to allow public charters to be built in Idaho, every charter school created a new school district and insufficient funding left all schools with needs that weren't being met. If we want to allow students more choice in education, then additional funding should be considered. My goal is to allow every public school in Idaho the flexibility to provide innovative, data-driven approaches to education for all students and make every Idaho school a school of choice.
Should the state pursue policies to arm Idaho teachers?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
I strongly support the Second Amendment, and Idaho law already allows local school boards to set rules allowing armed staff in their schools. No new statewide policy is necessary.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
No. Every local school board already oversees school safety in their district and has the legal responsibility and right to protect the health and safety of their children. One thing we need to remember is that school violence is a symptom of an underlying problem - children feeling isolated, depressed, anxious, and even suicidal. Putting resources for mental health detection and assisting young people with coping skills to deal with early trauma is the best remedy to create safe schools. According to the Idaho Office of Public School Safety, pre-emptive measures such as these are proven to be most effective in helping children and protecting teachers and students from school violence. Arming teachers creates a whole new set of possible problems and does not solve the issue of students who have experienced trauma acting out.
What can Idaho do to improve the rate of students leaving high school and pursuing higher education, particularly for minority student populations?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
As Idaho’s superintendent and a member of both the Higher Education Task Force and the State Board of Education, I’ve been on the front lines of increasing go on rates for students. I supported higher education’s work to use system-wide benchmarks to help remove bureaucratic barriers that stop kids from going on to college. Additionally, I believe there’s more Idaho can do to ensure kids entering college don’t drop out. Existing programs that have proven successful, including Advanced Opportunities and career-technical education, must continue. They allow high school students to earn college credits and credentials for the skills they’ve mastered, building their confidence and preparing them to pursue their future dreams. Above all, we need to further strengthen the partnership between k-12 schools, higher education and families to ensure all our kids have meaningful educational options that prepare them to succeed and become productive citizens.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
We need to engage students in their learning! Providing meaningful opportunities for career-focused education helps students see a purpose in their school work. Getting students out of the classroom and into community college or work settings while still in high school promotes an interest for them in how their learning can provide a successful career. Currently, some Idaho community and 4 year colleges reach out to our native and Hispanic populations to help prepare students for college. Our state should expand such programs and provide students guidance to succeed in college or in a vocational-technical career and make sure there are plenty of experiences available for students to enjoy more trade work opportunity. Implementing early childhood education particularly helps with minority student populations. And most importantly, we need to show students how fun learning can be and model lifelong learning for our children.
Is Idaho doing enough to promote career-technical education opportunities for high school students?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
I strongly support Idaho’s investments in career-technical education (CTE) and building on that trend in the future. It gives our students the opportunity to earn badges, which tells the world what they can do, opening a wide range of fulfilling and lucrative post-graduation possibilities. I am also pleased we have high schools with full CTE programs and over 80,000 students in our high schools-enrolled in some sort of CTE offering. It works for our students, keeping them in high school and preparing them to go on. We also now offer CTE for 7th and 8th grades and finally, Idaho has adopted a “learn by doing” vision in CTE, as this relates to Agriculture, Business, Technology, Health Sciences and much more. Students can now pursue college-level training in those fields while still in high school through Advanced Opportunities.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Some districts around the state are providing excellent career-technical education opportunities for their students, but that is not true of every district in Idaho and that's part of the problem. A student's education should not be determined by his/her zip code and what is offered should be equal for all Idaho students. Not every child has a desire or the aptitude to go to college so schools with parents need to help students identify what career path is best for them and then provide them a route to make that happen. When students are learning for a purpose, they are engaged.
Does Idaho do a sufficient job measuring student and school performance?
Sherri Ybarra
Republican
My team at the department has worked on changing from a one-size-fits all model, to a “menu selection” approach of research based options. As a previous Federal Programs Director and Curriculum Director, and now, as our State Superintendent traveling throughout Idaho, it is clear the needs up in Salmon are much different than the needs in places like Nampa or Caldwell, Idaho. Districts know the needs of their kids and we need to be a partner, rather than telling them what they need, or what to do. Our goal is to help all schools and districts gain the programs and resources needed to “Support Schools and Students to Achieve.” And our ability to measure school and student performance—and use that information—to improve results—has substantially increased with the adoption of our new accountability framework and revamped early reading test to help young students get the best possible start on learning.
Cindy Wilson
Democrat
Emphasis on high stakes testing turns students off to learning. Most students don't engage in learning just for the sake of the test, so we need to be careful in how we talk about and use that data. Authentic measurement of student learning should always include a plan for what to do if students aren't showing growth and how to proceed to ensure students learn the content and skills needed to go on. Measuring student and school performance is important statewide to determine that every Idaho child is getting the best education possible, but student learning can be assessed in multiple ways . Along with end of course assessments, teachers are the best equipped to determine what students know and can do in their classroom.

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