Meet Debbie Critchfield, Republican nominee for state superintendent

Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction nominee Debbie Critchfield wants to use her experience in communications and education leadership to reestablish trust between the State Department of Education, school districts and parents.

She wants to bridge the gap between public schools and charter schools, support teachers and students, change the education narrative and inspire classroom innovation throughout the state.

Critchfield will face Democrat Terry Gilbert in the general election on Nov. 8. The two candidates are vying to replace eight-year incumbent Sherri Ybarra.

EdNews will closely cover the superintendent’s race. To learn more about Critchfield’s opponent, Terry Gilbert, visit this link. For information about both candidates’ campaign strategies, click here. The general election will occur on Nov. 8. Absentee ballots are available now, upon request. Visit to learn more.

Raised in San Diego, Calif., Critchfield graduated from Brigham Young University in Utah with a degree in political science. She married into a fourth-generation farm family from Oakley and has lived in Idaho since the 1990s. Critchfield and her husband, Dave, raised four children in the Cassia County School District.

Critchfield’s introduction to the classroom came through her six-year stint as a substitute teacher. That experience allowed her a small insight into the everyday lives of Idaho’s public school teachers, and that’s when she began forming her own opinions about funding, policy and communications.

The experience inspired her to run for a position on the district’s school board. She won, and ultimately served for 10 years, five years as board chair. In 2014, former Gov. Butch Otter appointed Critchfield to the State Board of Education and Gov. Brad Little later reappointed her. She served on the State Board for seven years, two years as president.

The GOP nominee also worked as the public relations officer in the Cassia district for nine years.

Early literacy, workforce training and school choice are on the GOP nominee’s platform

Throughout her campaign, Critchfield has visited schools and met with school leaders across the state, often visiting multiple locations per day. Her goal has been to listen to teachers and administrators, to see where districts, charters and private schools are succeeding and innovating, and to learn where the SDE can lend support and resources.

Critchfield spoke with Boise School District educators about how classrooms are changing and what good professional development looks like.

If elected, she says she wants to continue this practice. She hopes to create support structures for district staff and teachers, and listen to all voices.

From a policy standpoint, Critchfield plans to introduce a financial literacy graduation requirement.

She wants to zero in on workforce readiness, and bring career-technical education programs and academic programs to similar levels to support students planning for college and those who want to jump straight into the workforce.

“I’d like to open up all the doors and allow local districts the opportunity to create, whether it’s their own programs to support what’s happening in the community, or to add on graduation requirements that make sense to the students and communities that they live in,” Critchfield told the Canyon County Republican Women during a luncheon Tuesday.

Early literacy is also in the GOP candidate’s list of top concerns. She hopes to reorient the SDE’s approach to support districts’ handling of additional early literacy funds, after the Legislature passed nearly a $47 million funding boost earlier this year.

Her background in public relations in the Cassia district, she says, will assist her communications with districts and parents, and help her reestablish trust in school districts and local communities. She wants to support positive parent engagement and communication, and will work with local school boards to ensure parents feel heard.

Critchfield is a proponent of school choice. She told EdNews she wants to bridge the gap between public schools and charter schools, and help share innovative tactics throughout the network of Idaho educators. She says she’ll entertain policies and funding options to support school choice, but not by defunding public schools or putting rural school districts at risk.

EdNews asked Critchfield to fill out a candidate questionnaire. Read her answers here.

Sadie Dittenber

Sadie Dittenber

Reporter Sadie Dittenber focuses on K-12 policy and politics. She is a College of Idaho graduate, born and raised in the Treasure Valley. You can follow Sadie on Twitter @sadiedittenber and send her news tips at [email protected].

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