Three GOP candidates face off to be Idaho superintendent

Branden Durst, left, Debbie Critchfield, middle, and Sherri Ybarra are all vying to become Idaho's superintendent of public instruction and will face off in the GOP primary in May.

Branden Durst, left, Debbie Critchfield, middle, and Sherri Ybarra are all vying to become Idaho’s superintendent of public instruction and will face off in the GOP primary in May.

Idaho Statesman file photos

Three candidates are facing off in the state’s Republican primary Tuesday to be Idaho’s next superintendent of public instruction.

The candidates include incumbent Sherri Ybarra, who was first elected to the role in 2014, and is running for her third term as the state’s top education official. She faces opponents Debbie Critchfield, the former president of the State Board of Education, and Branden Durst, a former state legislator.

This story will be updated throughout the night as election results become available for the statewide race.

Candidates for superintendent have campaigned around several issues that have been major topics of interest in education — if critical race theory is present in Idaho schools, whether public funding should follow students who want to attend private or alternative schools, and how schools handled the COVID- 19 pandemic.

The three candidates differ on several of these issues.

Throughout the campaign, Ybarra has touted her experience as an educator and her record as superintendent. She has pointed to rankings from Education Week that show Idaho rose from 31st in student achievement in 2016 to its most recent 17th ranking last year. It’s one of three factors Education Week uses for a state’s report card. Idaho most recently ranked 40th overall in the study, a gradual increase from its 48th rank in 2016.

Critchfield has said her experience on the Board of Education makes her qualified for the position. Her priorities include focusing on skills and job readiness in Idaho schools and restoring trust in the state’s public education system.

Durst has tried to paint himself as the outsider candidate. His priorities include rooting out any critical race theory in schools and expanding school choice. Educators and administrators have said over the past year critical race theory is not taught in K-12 schools. Durst has faced allegations over the past decade relating to domestic abuse and harassment.

Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho Statesman in partnership with Report for America. The position is partly funded through community support. Click here to donate.

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Becca Savransky covers education for the Idaho Statesman. She is a report for America corps member whose position is partially funded by community donations. Click here to donate to help fund your position. Becca graduated from Northwestern University and previously worked at the Seattlepi.com and The Hill.
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