Superintendent Candidates Debate Future Of Education In Idaho

Apr 11, 2018

Teacher accountability and early childhood education took center stage Tuesday night as candidates hoping to lead Idaho’s school system gathered in Boise.

Candidates running for state superintendent of public instruction agreed with each other on many headline policy proposals, though implementing them is a different matter.

During the forum sponsored by Idaho Education News, each of the three politicians agreed the state needs to invest in pre-k education. Idaho is one of a handful of states that doesn’t provide those opportunities before kindergarten.

“It cannot be a direct, top-down approach where everybody receives the same funding for the same approach,” says Jeff Dillon, a Republican and Wilder School District Superintendent.

Boise educator Cindy Wilson, who's seeking the Democratic nomination, agrees, saying districts and parents would need to be consulted before any plan is implemented.

Despite a recent poll showing more than 75 percent of voters support it, the topic has gotten little traction at the Idaho capitol.

Democrat and former hospital admin Allen Humble repeatedly touted pre-k education as a solution that would solve many problems across the system.

On teacher accountability, Wilson says successful schools should mentor low-performing ones until they rebound.

“It should not be a punitive discussion. It should be a discussion of helping and remedying what the problem is,” Wilson says.

Dillon says he provides training opportunities for teachers so they can better their skill set. If they don’t improve, however, he says they should be removed from the classroom.

The problem, he notes, is sometimes those educators find their way to other schools because of Idaho’s small pool of teaching candidates.

Incumbent Sherri Ybarra was invited, but was traveling on state business. Idaho Education News offered to move the date, but the organization says her campaign wouldn’t offer any alternatives.

When specifically asked about what candidates thought Ybarra’s biggest failure has been during her first term, Dillon and Wilson skirted the question. They each touted leadership qualities they think qualify them for the position.

Humble answered the most directly.

“I don’t think the incumbents are afraid to fail. I just don’t think they have been challenging enough on new ideas,” Humble says.

Voters can cast their primary ballots May 15.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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