(UPDATED, 3:19 p.m., with comments from the Jones campaign.)
Sherri Ybarra spent Thursday in training sessions with Idaho school superintendents — and took issue with the suggestion that she had snubbed school administrators earlier in the week.
The Republican state superintendent’s candidate was criticized by Democratic opponent Jana Jones — and by one prominent district superintendent with Republican credentials — after she declined an invitation to speak at the Idaho Association of School Administrators’ annual meeting in Boise.
The decision came down to scheduling conflicts, Ybarra said at a news conference Thursday.
“Snubbing was not a term I used,” said Ybarra, in reference to an Idaho Education News headline on the flap.
Ybarra said she had a doctor’s appointment on Monday, the day Jones spent a half hour fielding questions from an audience of 460 school administrators. Ybarra was also seen at a coffee shop in Downtown Boise, near the IASA event, and said she was planning to meet with a Republican legislator.
In the aftermath of Ybarra’s no-show, one superintendent crossed party lines to endorse Jones. Bonneville district Superintendent Chuck Shackett announced his endorsement Monday, and did not hide his disappointment in Ybarra’s decision to decline the IASA invite.
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Shackett had endorsed Melba Superintendent Andy Grover in the May GOP primary; Grover finished last in the four-way race won by Ybarra.
On Thursday, Ybarra said she wasn’t worried by Shackett’s endorsement, and doesn’t believe she has fences to mend with superintendents. “That’s not the feel I’m getting.”
Ybarra will spend the next three months juggling campaign events with her job; she will stay on as federal programs and curriculum director at the Mountain Home School District. She reiterated that she think it is important to continue working in the front lines in schools, and said she will have ample time to meet with education stakeholders and run an aggressive campaign.
Ybarra pointed out that she has collected endorsements from 10 GOP legislators. The list includes House Speaker Scott Bedke, Oakley; Senate President Pro Tem Brent Hill, Rexburg; Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, Boise; and House Majority Leader Mike Moyle, Star (the Ybarra website misidentifies Moyle as a member of the Senate).
While this week’s campaign dialogue focused on attendance at educators’ annual conferences, a few issue-based differences emerged.
On funding: Jones said her first priority is to restore school funding to pre-recession levels. Ybarra called this an unrealistic promise, since budget decisions are made by the Legislature. While Ybarra said K-12 budgets are inadequate, she said she did not support a tax increase. “Right now, you need to use what you have first, appropriately.”
On Common Core: Jones again voiced her support for the Idaho Core Standards — and Ybarra criticized Jones’ “rigid” backing of the controversial math and English language standards. Ybarra also supports Common Core, but says it needs work. “We need to take a look at it.”
This week, Jones pledged to convene a group of educators to look at what is working with Common Core, and what needs to be repaired.
“If Sherri had been there, she would have heard that,” Jones spokesman Robert Allen said.