K-12 budget: Ybarra jumps off the Trump train

In early April, state superintendent Sherri Ybarra told a roomful of Idaho educators that they needn’t fear the Trump administration’s proposed education budget cuts.

On Tuesday, the Republican Ybarra ripped the budget plan — and invited Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to see the impacts of the budget proposals firsthand.

What changed here?

Not the numbers.

Since mid-March, President Trump has been floating the idea of cutting $9 billion from the Education Department budget for 2017-18. The White House merely made the proposal official Tuesday. But the basic facts were out there six weeks ago, when Ybarra gave a rosy view of the Trump budget proposal.

Let’s take a deeper look at Ybarra’s comments.

April 5-6

Ten days after a trip to Washington, D.C., and meetings with White House officials and fellow state education leaders, Ybarra heaped praise upon Trump and DeVos.

Addressing the state’s Federal Programs Conference, and an audience of nearly 800 educators, Ybarra said the days of “federal intrusion” in education were in the past.

Ybarra downplayed the impacts of the Trump budget. She suggested — inaccurately — that increases in some budget line items would offset cuts to other line items. (The Trump proposal does increase Title I funding by $1 billion, but this doesn’t come close to offsetting cuts elsewhere in the budget.)

Asked about those numbers, Ybarra walked back her comments a bit.

Here’s her April 6 statement:

“As Idaho’s Superintendent I would never support less funding for public education, and would always look for additional dollars where it is fiscally responsible. That being said, the new administration has stated that the cuts are based on research; therefore, we need to focus on the increases in Title I dollars that have been proposed and the positive changes we can make for students. Our focus on additional Title I funding will allow local districts to increase support our most vulnerable students. If a particular grant program has been working in a school district, they would have more flexibility to support students in the best way they see fit. Additionally, I will be watching the budgeting process closely and I encourage stakeholders and education leaders to contact our congressional delegation, as well.”

May 23

Here, in full, is what Ybarra had to say Tuesday:

“I cannot and will not support a budget that reduces funding for public education. It negatively impacts teacher training at a time when we are facing a teacher shortage not only in Idaho, but also across the country. While I support providing educational options for parents, as Idaho’s Superintendent I cannot agree with a proposal that takes funding away from public education for private use. This is why I am inviting Secretary DeVos to visit one of the nation’s reddest states to see how rural Idaho could be affected by federal policies and initiatives. I encourage Idaho’s education stakeholders to contact our congressional delegation to advocate for a budget that funds programs that are important to our teachers, and to our most vulnerable students.”

More reading: Details about the education budget proposal.

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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