Ybarra looks to give students a voice

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra announced in May a new Student Advisory Council that will be meeting quarterly starting with the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year.

But what will the new group look like?

According to Kristin Rodine, public information officer for the State Department of Education, Ybarra is looking for a group of 12 students from all over the state and in a variety of ages “with different backgrounds, cultures, interests, school sizes and parts of Idaho.”

The age range of the application is students who are currently between second and 11th grade. Rodine said the student council will be able to give input to Ybarra and others within the SDE.

“We expect the students to have a real influence on policies and programs, providing valuable youth perspective.”

Rodine said the creation of the student council is to get more student voices into public education policy making. During her announcement of the group, which came just days before the ending of the 2021 legislative session, Ybarra discussed state lawmakers’ effects on education and said students are not brought in to the conversation enough.

“It’s kind of like we’re talking all the way around our kids but we’re not really involving them; we haven’t really brought them to the table at the state level,” Ybarra said to Treasure Valley educators on May 10.

Rodine said Ybarra has met with students at stops throughout her legislative roadshow.

“Her goal is to give students a direct role in improving Idaho K-12 education, creating an avenue for regular, open discussions with students who can share peers’ ideas as well as their own,” Rodine said.

Despite coming at the end of the 2021 legislative session, Rodine said the announcement of the student council was not tied to the Legislature as much as it is to line up with the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

The announcement came a day before former State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield joined the race for superintendent. Critchfield and former state legislator Branden Durst are running for the position. Ybarra has not yet announced that she is running for re-election.

The application for the Student Advisory Council is due by June 25 and the selection will be done in August. Rodine said the council is being advertised through media coverage, public appearances, school districts and word of mouth. The application is available in English and Spanish.

Nik Streng

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