Idaho Schools Chief Candidate Ybarra Removes Content Identical To Rival's Website

Sep 3, 2014

This story was updated at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 5, 2014

State superintendent’s candidate Sherri Ybarra has edited her campaign website — removing language that was nearly identical to wording on opponent Jana Jones’ website. 

The modifications apparently were made Thursday, a day after Idaho Education News first reported on similarities between the rival candidates’ sites. As recently as mid-afternoon Thursday, the passages appeared twice on Ybarra’s page.

What’s left now is a brief passage on the “Join Team Ybarra” page of the website — a solicitation for donations and support. It reads, in full:

“The Sherri Ybarra campaign for Idaho State Superintendent of Public Instruction will get Idaho’s education system on the right track. Sign up below and be involved in the Sherri Ybarra Idaho Superintendent for Public Instruction republican campaign.”

Click here to read more of this story from Idaho Education News.

This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. Sept. 4, 2014

Republican state superintendent’s candidate Sherri Ybarra says she takes responsibility for the content on her campaign website — and wording that mirrors Democratic candidate Jana Jones’ campaign website.

Ybarra issued a brief statement Thursday afternoon to reporters. The statement does not say whether Ybarra will delete the content in question — which now appears twice on her website.

Here, in full, is the Ybarra statement.

"I was surprised to learn of the similarity in language on the websites on the contact pages. The contact copy page was posted 6 months ago for the primary election in March. I sent my web managers copy regarding issues and positioning statements. They wrote other copy points on the contact page; however, I take responsibility for final copy content.  My focus is, and will continue to be, how we best provide a strong future for Idaho’s children. That future begins with the very best education and preparation we can offer them. As an educator working every day within Idaho’s system, I have the experience and ideas to bring meaningful reforms and work closely with members of the Idaho Legislature and stakeholders to move Idaho education forward." - Sherri Ybarra

Idaho Education News’ Clark Corbin first reported on the website similarities in a story Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, Jones is upping the ante in this flap, accusing Ybarra of plagiarism.

Here is Jones’ statement, also in full:

"I appreciate my opponent taking responsibility for plagiarizing content from my website, but the fact that it happened at all is troubling. Integrity matters in this office, and so does attention to detail. Idahoans have had enough of a superintendent who is not open, honest, and accountable, and my opponent seems to be cut from the same cloth. I will be a superintendent who will provide leadership Idahoans can trust." - Jana Jones

On Wednesday, when interviewed about the similarities in the website wording, Jones said she had posted the passages in question before Ybarra entered the race and she was “shocked” about the similarities. However, she did not accuse Ybarra of plagiarism.

This story from Idaho Education News was originally posted at  8:30 p.m. Sept. 3, 2014.

Democratic state superintendent candidate Jana Jones said she was “shocked” to learn Wednesday that passages from her website appear, nearly verbatim, on Republican opponent Sherri Ybarra’s website.

Jones said she wrote the passages in question, and her website was published before Ybarra entered the race. Ybarra did not return phone calls or emails Wednesday.

Melinda Nothern, who is working on Ybarra’s campaign, confirmed late Wednesday she had received a screenshot from Idaho Education News comparing similar language on the websites, but Nothern had been unable to reach Ybarra. Nothern declined to comment, saying she did not have access to all of the information and the website’s launch predated her work on the campaign.

Under the prominent “Join Team Jana” and “Join Team Ybarra” sections of their respective websites, both candidates posted a nearly identical paragraph about working together to improve education.

The paragraphs are each 46 words long. The only difference between the two is that Jones inserted one eight-word phrase on improving education: “It’s also going to take all of us.” Ybarra’s passage includes the eight-word phrase, “We want a brighter future for Idaho’s children.”

Everything else — including the wording and the use of an Oxford comma in the same spot — is identical.

This is the identical wording on both sites: “It’s going to take a lot of hard work to have the kind of education system we want for Idaho’s kids. … Parents, students, educators, business leaders, elected officials, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, working together to make it happen.”

Other elements of the two sites, including capitalization and the placement of exclamation points, are very similar.

A solicitation for comments also is nearly identical.

Says Jones’ site: “Use the optional message box to share your thoughts and ideas with her regarding education in Idaho.”

Says Ybarra’s site: “Use the optional message box to share your thoughts and ideas with us regarding education in Idaho.”

“It sounds like a whole page of my website,” Jones said Wednesday afternoon when Idaho Education News read her both passages. “I find that amazing. All I can say is, no, I wasn’t aware of that and that’s unbelievable. I don’t know what you’re supposed to say to that.”

See a screengrab of Jones' and Ybarra's websites and continue reading this story from Idaho Education News, here.