Former Chief Justice Jim Jones has a good point — there’s no good reason for certain statewide offices, especially the superintendent of public instruction, to be partisan. What matters there isn’t ideology but ability.

Cindy Wilson

Cindy Wilson, Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction, speaks to members of the Idaho Falls City Club on Friday.

Democrat Cindy Wilson can run the State Department of Education better than Republican incumbent Sherri Ybarra. The editorial board has unanimously opted to endorse her.

A distinct pattern of missteps and poor decisions by Ybarra have emerged from meticulous reporting by Idaho Education News.

One of Ybarra’s latest is disqualifying. To throw a campaign event at a bar owned by your old boss — a man whose teaching and administrator credentials were revoked over numerous allegations of lurid and sometimes physical sexual harassment — shows an incredible lack of judgment and circumspection.

Equally concerning has been the apparent insularity of the State Department of Education under Ybarra’s leadership, a theme that emerged before she won her first election.

In her first time on the campaign trail four years ago, she skipped out on a meeting of the Idaho Association of School Administrators where her opponent, Jana Jones, was answering questions. She was spotted in the same neighborhood sitting in a coffee shop.

To be sure, Ybarra has improved over her term in office. Her budget presentations, which initially left everyone scratching their heads (her first lasted only a few minutes — for a $1.5 billion budget), have become much more thorough, for example.

But problems have continued. When the new Keep Idaho Students Safe initiative was announced, it drew a highly unusual reaction. The Office of School Safety and Security, which had been created two years earlier and had inspected hundreds of schools around the state to evaluate their security, had no idea it was coming.

{span}“We didn’t even know she was looking at doing any kind of safety initiative until she announced it to the general public,” program manager Brian Armes told Idaho Education News.{/span}

That’s baffling. It’s poor leadership. And it’s a sign that the problem of insularity has not been solved.

We expect that Wilson would perform much better. She’s worked in schools all over the state. And she’s always worked in the most important position in those schools: teaching in the classroom.

But she also has plenty of experience with large state agencies. And Wilson has seen what happens when the education system fails. Wilson has served more than three years on the Idaho Board of Correction.

Instead of dumping hundreds of millions into a new prison, she sees a far more productive way to deal with the growing prison population: Invest in early childhood education, as well as effective technical and vocational education, and keep Idaho kids from the path that leads to prison. Good idea.

Wilson also served on the portion of Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s education task force charged with examining one of the brightest spots in the Idaho education system: the growth of dual enrollment programs to give Idaho students a head start in college.

Wilson can be expected to lead the department in a superb manner, and she has innovative ideas that will improve the lot of Idaho students.

The Post Register’s editorial board consists of Publisher Travis Quast, Managing Editor Monte LaOrange and editorial writer Bryan Clark. Clark can be reached at 208-542-6751.

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