Guest editorial: Ybarra must step into the big leagues

From the Twin Falls Times-News

Sherri Ybarra was the beneficiary of a political anomaly in the recent GOP primary. It’s time she realized that, stop talking and start learning the issues.

The Mountain Home curriculum director faced a packed field in the May 20 primary for Idaho’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, a four-way race that included obvious frontrunners Randy Jensen and Andy Grover. Both men had solid platforms. Both men stood for something, brought on-the-ground experience and, especially in Grover’s case, worked the Lincoln Day dinner circuit with all they had.

But a four-way race, particularly with two solid choices, are impossible to predict. That was the case here. Jensen and Grover siphoned votes from each other, and Jensen still managed to keep it relatively close. Ybarra won the all-important Republican line with just 28.5 percent of the vote. It’s hardly a mandate.

“I took a different approach and I got a different result,” Ybarra recently told Idaho Education News on the tactics leading to her surprising victory.

Yeah, it was different all right. Say nothing of substance and fly well below the more nuanced debate going on overhead. She had absolutely no idea of what her budget priorities would be when we asked her. The classic ‘I haven’t done my homework’ response shocked us, when she said she wouldn’t know how the $1.67 billion state education budget should be managed until she got in the office.

“Navigating the politics and carrying out the mandates, that’s navigating the politics,” Ybarra said during the pre-primary debate on Idaho Public Television, when asked about dealing with the state Legislature.

Alright, then.

We hope for more from the Republican standard bearer for a job that will be fundamental in pulling Idaho’s faltering schools back from the brink.

Ybarra faces former state Deputy Superintendent Jana Jones in November. Jones gave outgoing Superintendent Tom Luna a run for his money eight years ago and is raising a lot of cash. Jones knows the issues, has name recognition and won’t have other candidates to worry about, which allowed Ybarra to escape the magnifying glass that Jensen and Grover were under.

We need answers on appropriate funding.Idaho ranks 49th in per-student spending.

We need answers on each recommendation from Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s education task force and ideas about how to pay for reform.

We need solid answers on Idaho Core Standards. Ybarra says she generally supports the boosted requirements but then says we over-test. What’s the balance?

Put simply, we need answers between now and November. Specifics, please.

Idaho’s students are too important to accept anything less.