Sherri Ybarra’s mysterious vote for the State Board budget

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra voted last week to endorse the State Board of Education’s 2020-21 budget — which would shift 18 jobs and $2.7 million from her State Department of Education.

This is the same budget shift Ybarra is fighting in court, in a high-profile lawsuit against the Legislature and her fellow State Board members. In Idaho Supreme Court filings, Ybarra has argued that the budget shift usurps her authority as an elected state official, and would undermine her department’s day-to-day operations. Ybarra has also alleged that the Legislature voted to strip the 18 IT and data management positions from her department as a form of political payback.

But none of those arguments came up during an eight-hour State Board meeting on June 10. Instead, Ybarra and the rest of the board voted unanimously to endorse a series of budgets under its jurisdiction.

The board approved several budgets with a single vote — including spending plans for colleges and universities, Idaho Public Television and career-technical education. But the vote on the State Board’s office budget is particularly noteworthy, considering recent events.

Ybarra — who has a seat on the State Board, as elected state superintendent — has sparred over this budget with the gubernatorial appointees who make up the balance of the board. In April, Ybarra tried to convince the board to keep the 18 positions and $2.7 million under her jurisdiction, effectively overriding the Legislature’s decision to move the IT and data management functions. Only one board member, Shawn Keough, sided with Ybarra, prompting the April 24 lawsuit.

It’s unclear why Ybarra voted to approve the State Board budget last week. Ybarra’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment; check back for updates.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Ybarra’s lawsuit on June 5. It’s unclear when the court will rule, but the court has put the case on a fast track. The transfer of the 18 positions is scheduled to go into effect on July 1.

More reading: Click here to look at the budgets the State Board approved on June 10. Scroll to the sixth page for the board’s budget, detailing the disputed $2.7 million fund shift.

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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