Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra has sued the Legislature and the State Board of Education, escalating a simmering dispute over personnel and funding.
Ybarra filed the 53-page suit in Idaho Supreme Court via her recently appointed Special Deputy Attorney General David Leroy.
The dispute dates to the 2020 legislative session, when legislators took 18 full-time data management positions and $2.7 million away from Ybarra when setting her office budget. At the time, legislators said they wanted to consolidate all data management under the State Board and implement a change of management over the Idaho System For Education Excellence (ISEE) data management system.
Ybarra immediately resisted and she was caught off guard.
But the Legislature moved ahead, setting the stage for the suit.
“I filed a lawsuit today in response to the Idaho Legislature’s passage of two related appropriations bills, Senate Bills 1409 and 1410, which together eliminated $2,714,806 in technology funding and 18 positions from my office’s budget,” Ybarra said in a written statement released at 6 p.m. Friday. “These bills prevent me from fully discharging my constitutional duties.”
Ybarra’s State Department of Education declined further comment Friday night, referring Idaho Education News back to the written statement.
Efforts to obtain comment from the State Board of Education were not initially successful Friday night. But State Board member Linda Clark addressed the issue during a meeting earlier in the week before Ybarra filed the suit.
“I don’t believe we’ve ever been in a position, or ever will be in a position, to pick and choose what appropriations bills we’re going to support,” Clark said Monday. “There is no precedent for that.
Ybarra doesn’t pull any punches in the suit.
“By passing SB 1410 and SB 1409, the Legislature has acted unconstitutionally enacting a line item appropriation which, as applied to the superintendent, will prevent her from discharging her constitutional duties,” the suit alleges.
“Without appropriate funding and the ability to direct and control said employees and their necessary equipment, the superintendent is prevented from performing her constitutional duties,” the suit also states.
Notably, Ybarra is a member of the State Board of Education, which she is now suing. In the suit, Ybarra explains she is suing the State Board because it rejected the memorandum of understanding she brought forward seeking to block the transfer.
“The Board has refused to agree to the proposed compromise and intends to assume and assert control over said employees and equipment,” the suit states.
It’s not immediately clear what happens next. But it could strain working relations between Ybarra and two groups with which she must work closely to implement education policy.
Ybarra has requested an expedited hearing before the Supreme Court. The personnel and funding transfer is due to take place July 1.
“My actions today will ensure Idaho’s citizens continue to be represented by a Superintendent who maintains the supervisory oversight and ability to direct critical public school operations, consistent with the Idaho Constitution,” Ybarra said in her statement.