Gray Ibara made it official on Monday morning: she will run for a third term as head of public education.
Ibara announced her application by email less than three months before the Republican Party’s May 17 primaries. She will join former State Education Council president Debbie Critzfield and former MP Branden Durst on Republican ballots.
No Democrat has applied for the post.
“Idaho residents deserve the voice of a teacher as a leader, not another politician,” Ibara said in a press release. “Together we have made great progress and the Idaho schools are on the right track. Today I am running for re-election because there is something to work on and I believe we can make Idaho one of the top 10 states in K-12 education! ”
Ibara nearly won her first election in 2014, beating Democratic candidate Ian Jones by less than 6,000 votes to replace Tom Luna. In 2018, she beat rival Cindy Wilson by a narrow margin of about 3%.
Employment means Ybarra will work with the advantage of name recognition, but it also means she will have to work on her track record.
In a news release Monday, Ibar touted several successes – including an increase in five-year high school graduation in Idaho, even as the four-year graduation rate fell during the pandemic. She cited several victories on the school funding front, including raising teacher pay and literacy – priorities of Gov. Brad Little and his predecessor Butch Otter.
During Ibar’s two terms as head of state, the students’ results were mixed. ISAT scores increased by one to two percentage points each year, while K-3 reading skills slipped back, even before the pandemic. Students also missed at least 33 of the 34 benchmarks of achievement set by the State Department of Education for at least the first two years after these benchmarks were established, under the federal Student Success Act. (See full information on Idaho’s progress toward these goals here.)
Ibara has faced her share of disputes, including public clashes with other government officials, as she did last year when she sued the legislature for transferring some of her staff and responsibilities to the State Education Council. As a staunch supporter of local control over education, Ibara has repeatedly taken the approach of supporting district growth rather than imposing consequences for deficiencies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she abandoned the implementation of most school operation decisions to local school districts.
Ibara is actively talking about the socio-emotional well-being of students, but she is struggling to get legislative support for this priority. In early 2020, Republicans in the House of Representatives ridiculed a $ 1 million proposal for social and emotional learning.
Critchfield responded to the superintendent’s announcement Monday morning by saying, “Ibara has been in the campaign for months,” and “it just formalizes what she’s already been doing.”
“This will be Ibar’s third term, and Idaho residents are desperately looking for a vision and a leader,” Critzfield told EdNews via email. “Support for our statewide message shows that 8 years has been long enough. Parents are frustrated, teachers are upset, and businesses need skilled employees. Idaho deserves a leader who will meet the educational needs of the 21st century. It is not yet time for a politically victorious circle. “
EdNews also requested a comment from Durst, but received no response immediately.
Entering the primaries, the incumbent president is lagging behind both of his contenders in the fundraising race. Kritchfield said he raised about $ 211,800 and keeps the bank cash at $ 182,700, while Ybarra has raised about $ 23,500 and has $ 13,400 in cash.
Ybarra was also ahead of Durst, who reported a fundraiser of $ 32,700 and $ 7,300.
If past campaigns are a clue, Ibara may continue to face the problem of fundraising, but that hasn’t stopped her yet. In 2018 and 2014, Ibara won, despite the fact that her Democratic opponents were well ahead.