Schools chief Sherri Ybarra pledged her support to teachers and called for unity among education groups in a speech Tuesday.
Ybarra spoke to about 160 educators and administrators during the State Department of Education’s Legislative Roadshow stop in Boise.
“I’m here today because three years ago I promised you I walked in your shoes and together we would make things right for our students,” Ybarra said.
Throughout her term, Ybarra said she has devoted her energy to improving the climate around public schools, eliminating excessive spending and reducing what she called cumbersome reporting and paperwork requirements.
At the end of her speech, Ybarra announced her next major initiative will focus on attracting and recruiting educators through the new “Be a Teacher” campaign. SDE spokesman Jeff Church said the campaign will align to the department’s strategic plan.
Ybarra and other SDE officials will work on the campaign’s specific details and timeline after the Legislative Roadshow, Church said.
“What we owe you moving forward is to elevate the teaching profession,” Ybarra said. “I’m tired of the lip service we often hear.”
The Legislative Roadshow is an annual statewide tour designed to help educators implement policies and budgets approved during the recent legislative session.
The event focused on several key areas.
- Helping school officials understand the 2017-18 budgets. The budget includes a 6.3 percent increase in general fund spending, nearly $62 million for teacher raises for teachers and $1 million for training school administrators on teacher evaluations.
- Preparing educators for a new statewide school accountability system. This year’s Legislature approved a system to finally replace Idaho’s controversial five-star rating system, repealed in 2014. The new system breaks schools down into three categories — K-8 schools, traditional high schools and alternative schools. The new system will do away with a summative rating and instead present an online “dashboard” that includes multiple measures of academics and school quality.
- Transitioning to a new K-3 reading assessment. This year, the Legislature approved $100,000 to begin replacing the Idaho Reading Indicator, which can be used to identify struggling young readers. Dallas-based Istation will serve as the vendor for the new test. The new test will be designed to assess students in phonetic awareness, alphabetical knowledge, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Ybarra said pilot projects will begin next school year.
Tuesday’s Legislative Roadshow was the most-attended roadshow thus far. Attendees included House Education Committee Chairwoman Julie VanOrden, R-Pingree; Caldwell district Superintendent Shalene French; Melba Superintendent Andy Grover; Mountain Home Superintendent James Gilbert; Marilyn Whitney, Gov. Butch Otter’s education liaison; and University of Idaho associate professor Richard Bauscher.
The Legislative Roadshow tour wraps up this week.
Remaining Legislative Roadshow schedule (both events run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., local time):
- Wednesday, Lewiston, Lewis-Clark State College, 500 Eighth Ave.
- Thursday, Coeur d’Alene, Coeur d’Alene Resort, 115 S. Second St.