Supreme Court schedules June 5 hearing on Ybarra lawsuit

(UPDATED, 5:42 p.m., with statement from Ybarra, details on State Board meeting.)

The Idaho Supreme Court will hold a June 5 hearing on state school superintendent Sherri Ybarra’s lawsuit against the Legislature and the State Board of Education.

The news comes less than a week after Ybarra filed the lawsuit — part of an escalating political power struggle over school IT and data management functions. And the schedule signals that the Supreme Court is putting the case on a fast track, as Ybarra and her attorney had requested.

In March, the 2020 Legislature stripped 18 IT and data management positions from Ybarra’s State Department of Education. The positions, and $2.7 million in funding, will go to the State Board of Education, effective July 1.

Ybarra said she was blindsided by the Legislature’s move, and she has been trying to fight it ever since.

On April 20, she tried to convince the State Board to keep the 18 positions under her jurisdiction, effectively overriding the Legislature’s decision. When the State Board declined Ybarra’s request, she filed an April 24 lawsuit through her attorney, David Leroy. The former state attorney general and lieutenant governor has been hired as a special deputy attorney general to represent Ybarra.

In a filing earlier this week, Leroy urged the Supreme Court to take up the case as quickly as possible. He said the potential move leaves Ybarra’s department facing “significant uncertainty and personnel distress.” To make matters worse, he said, the IT and data management staff is struggling to work with schools “in emergency shutdown conditions” forced by the global coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement late Friday afternoon, Ybarra hailed the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case.

“The Legislature cannot prevent a statewide elected officer from performing her duties,” she said. “Given that the Supreme Court has taken up my case so quickly, I’m encouraged the court may rule in favor of our schoolchildren and the people of Idaho.”

The State Board has said little about the lawsuit, but that could change Monday. The board is scheduled to meet at 3 p.m., and according to an agenda issued Friday, board President Debbie Critchfield will make a statement on the lawsuit at that time.

Under the Supreme Court’s schedule, the State Board and the Legislature’s attorneys must file their responses to the lawsuit by May 15. Ybarra and Leroy then have a week to file a rebuttal.

Oral arguments are slated for 10 a.m. on June 5. The hearing will take place over Zoom.



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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