Idaho superintendent candidates debate Common Core

Major differences emerge among the four Republicans.


Grangeville teacher John Eynon, American Falls principal Randy Jensen, Melba superintendent Andy Grover and Mountain Home federal programs director Sherri Ybarra weighed in on a range of issues - from the voter-repealed Props 1, 2 and 3 to Common Core standards, testing and funding concerns - during a City Club of Boise campaign forum Monday.

Moderator Jim Weatherby, a longtime Idaho political pundit, kicked things off by pointing out the "long list of challenges" the next schools chief faces.

Last August, Gov. Butch Otter's Task Force for Improving Education - a bipartisan group of educators and stakeholders, state officials and business leaders - toured the state before developing a near-unanimous list of reform recommendations.

Jensen said it is vital the state generate the funding to implement the career ladder and tiered licensure recommendations, which are designed to increase teacher pay based on professional licenses they obtain.

"The bottom line is, we will not be able to retain or recruit the best teachers possible without funding," Jensen said.

Grover, who is a member of a committee working to implement the career ladder and licensure model, also backed the recommendations. He emphasized that the state needs to continue to provide money for teacher training and professional development - another set of task force recommendations.

"We need to make sure teachers have the tools they need to match the rigorous standards," Grover said. "They are a different set of standards and a different way of looking at how students are learning."

Ybarra backed Common Core and positioned herself as a champion of teachers as well. She said that budget initiatives and proposals are just that - initiatives - until crucial funding is used fairly.

"(We need to) focus on how to get that money down to the classroom, where it counts most," Ybarra said. "(I) support teacher in training initiative items and support Common Core and getting down to the classroom."

Eynon offered a different approach. He opposed several task force recommendations and the way the statewide panel conducted its business. He called Common Core standards, the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test and the statewide longitudinal data system "just more big government."

"The people spoke and, yet, the Governor's Task Force on education flagrantly ignored the voice of the people in the recommendations they come up with," Eynon said. "We need to reconvene the education task force."

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