Republican Sherri Ybarra says her at-times bumpy campaign for Idaho's Superintendent of Public Instruction is a result of increased public scrutiny on a political newcomer. But the school administrator from Mountain Home says she understands the focus that's on her comes with a run for public office.
"I think that [controversy] all relates back to what we know as campaign rhetoric," Ybarra says. "Campaigns are exactly that. They're just the political arena. I have never hidden the fact that I'm new on the political scene. I feel that I will do a fantastic job for Idahoans."
Jones, the Democrat in the race who works as a consultant, says funding and morale are the two biggest issues facing Idaho's public schools. Ybarra agrees that morale among teachers needs to be improved. But the GOP candidate isn't ready to say that Idaho must increase its public school spending in order to get better results. Ybarra says she'll wait until she assumes the position before taking a stand on the state's public school budget.
"Be thoughtful," she says of her plan to examine public school spending, "and study it, and make sure that there are no strings attached, and that school districts have opportunities for local control before you make a blanket statement that we just need to have the old 'tax and spend 'mentality."
Ybarra says she does have a "sneaking suspicion" that school budgets are spread "dangerously thin."
Both candidates have backgrounds in education and vary little on some issues. But Ybarra insists voters have a "stark" choice.
"One of the most obvious factors is that I've been on the front lines with my sleeves rolled up, earning the respect of the very team that I have to lead forward," Ybarra says. "My opponent has been working on the peripheral of education, meaning on the outside, in the business arena."
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