IEA criticizes Ybarra in TV ad

In the waning days of the state superintendent’s election, the Idaho Education Association is running television ads saying incumbent Sherri Ybarra “can’t be trusted to manage our schools.”

The 30-second ad criticizes the Republican Ybarra — but doesn’t mention Democratic challenger Cindy Wilson.

Here’s a look at the ad’s talking points, and a fact check:

A $100 million error. The ad says Ybarra’s recent budget proposal contained a $100 million mistake. This refers to Ybarra’s budget request from September. Ybarra proposed — and quickly walked back — a plan to boost teacher salaries.

The ad rounds up the numbers, but is essentially accurate. The raises Ybarra initially proposed would have cost an additional $99.3 million, according to the Idaho Press’ Betsy Russell, who first calculated the scope of the discrepancy. (Here’s a link to our Sept. 6 blog post, which described the mistake as a “$100 million error.”

The school safety plan. The IEA ad says Ybarra “created a school safety plan so flawed it could lead to chaos, making a crisis worse.”

The phraseology comes from an Aug. 9 Idaho Education News article on Ybarra’s Keep Idaho Students Safe plan. Idaho Education News’ Clark Corbin interviewed Brian Armes, program manager of Idaho’s Office of School Safety and Security, who said he was not consulted on the KISS plan.

“Armes is concerned that competing security plans could lead to chaos in an emergency setting and a crisis could become worse,” Corbin reported.

This section of the ad addresses an ongoing controversy. Armes and other education leaders have said they were blindsided by the plan, and Wilson has criticized Ybarra for operating in a vacuum. Ybarra has said she worked with stakeholders on her plan — and this week, she released a guest opinion from Frank DeAngelis, a former principal at Colorado’s Columbine High School, who supports Ybarra’s initiative.

Graduation rates. The IEA rips Ybarra for bragging about Idaho’s graduation rates, “even though those rates remained stagnant.”

The ad cites two Idaho Education News articles. A Feb. 7 article says Idaho’s graduation rate was “unchanged” from 2016 to 2017. A March 1 blog post points out that Idaho’s graduation rates remain below the national average.

The change in the graduation rate was minuscule. From 2016 to 2017, the number moved from 79.66 percent to 79.67 percent. A change of .01 percent comes to about two students in a class of 20,000 students.

Ybarra has continued to tout the improvement in graduation rates, bringing it up twice during an Oct. 12 Idaho Public Television debate. Pressed on the issue, Ybarra denied that she was misleading voters. “An increase is an increase.”

While the IEA ad does not mention Wilson by name, the teachers’ union has publicly endorsed Wilson. The IEA also contributed to Wilson’s campaign before the May 15 Democratic primary.

The Ybarra campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ad.


Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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