Idaho schools deserve better leadership — with Cindy Wilson

Cindy Wilson has more than thirty years of classroom teaching experience in schools throughout Idaho.
Cindy Wilson has more than thirty years of classroom teaching experience in schools throughout Idaho. kjones@idahostatesman.com

A state is not going to become great, or stay great, with an education system that is mediocre.

Idaho ranks No. 25 among all states in terms of education performance K-12, according to U.S. News and World Report. (Higher ed is ranked 33rd). That’s not horrible overall; it puts us in the mid-range. But dig deeper and some of the standings in critical measures are worrisome. For example, Idaho ranks 40th in high school graduation, and 45th in preschool enrollment. Clearly the state needs an education leader who can push its schools and students toward excellence.

We believe Cindy Wilson is that leader, and endorse her in the Nov. 6 election. Wilson, a Democrat and a teacher at Capital High School, is challenging Republican Sherri Ybarra, the incumbent superintendent of public instruction who is seeking a second four-year term.

During her endorsement interview with The Statesman, Ybarra declined comment on a number of issues, including where she stands on the statewide proposals on the November ballot.

More disturbing, however, is her apparent satisfaction with the state’s dismal high school graduation rate, which stands at just above 79 percent. That’s not good enough, and the small improvement under Ybarra’s watch is not cause for celebration.

In addition, lawmakers complain that she rarely has met with members of the Legislature who might offer assistance in the effort to improve schools. But it is compounded by poor judgment. For example, she allowed a former school principal who had been dismissed due to multiple claims of sexual harassment to host a fundraiser for her. But most damning is the fact that she has not significantly improved Idaho’s schools.

Wilson has more than 30 years of classroom teaching experience in schools throughout Idaho. She has taught in Pierce, Orofino, Shelley, West Ada and Boise. Among the honors she has received are the Idaho Humanities Council Outstanding Teacher in the Humanities, Orofino teacher of the year, and Centennial High School teacher of the year. Like Ybarra, she places a high priority on teacher pay in order to enhance teacher recruitment and retention.

In addition to her teaching experience, Wilson has served on the governor’s Task Force for Improving Education, which developed and helped initiate 21 far-reaching recommendations for improving public schools. Gov. Otter also appointed her to serve on the Board of Corrections. In that position, she has worked to make education a stronger part of the state’s correctional system. She has also been involved with the Idaho Law Foundation.

Wilson’s priority is to increase literacy by the third grade and invest state funds in preschool and early childhood learning. State support for these things is critical in reaching the goal of universal literacy by the third grade. We believe she could provide the necessary leadership to make that happen. We also believe that she would bring new dimensions to public education via her experience in working with the state correctional system and her understanding of the connection between good health and education.

Cindy Wilson is the best choice for state school superintendent.

Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Statesman editorial board.