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TWIN FALLS — Solving Idaho’s teacher shortage will require a change in not just policy, but culture, state Superintendent Sherri Ybarra told Magic Valley educators Wednesday during a trip to Twin Falls.

Ybarra made stops at Rock Creek Elementary School and Canyon Ridge High School on Wednesday to meet with Twin Falls educators and other school district leaders from around the Magic Valley, part of a larger tour across southern Idaho.

Potential changes to the state’s school funding formula and challenges in recruiting and retaining teachers were at the forefront of the discussion, with local superintendents expressing concern about how a new formula might interact with Idaho’s five-year career ladder to boost teacher salaries. A committee to look into the state’s funding formula released recommendations Monday for a formula that would shift funding from an attendance-based to an enrollment-based model.

“The big question mark is, how can policy stay in place when you’re moving away from salary-based apportionment and going to student enrollment?” Ybarra said. “There’s a big disconnect on how that’s going to look.”

But Ybarra said she sees increasing teacher pay as only one part of the solution to Idaho’s teacher shortage, describing Idaho education as “in the middle of a PR war” over where exactly the state stands in national rankings.

“We know that a lot of the negativity is media-driven,” Ybarra said, adding: “That’s part of the reason we’re in an educator shortage.... Some of it’s pay, but a lot of it’s cultural.”

Twin Falls Superintendent Brady Dickinson and Kimberly Superintendent Luke Schroeder similarly lamented criticism leveled at school leaders after recent reports that the state has made little progress toward its goal of having 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds complete some education beyond high school. That metric doesn’t take into account the value of alternate career paths, Dickinson argued.

“’How do you get to that sustainable career where you can earn a livable wage?’ really needs to be the conversation,” Dickinson said. “When we’re getting beat up on it, it’s difficult because I do believe it misses the mark a little bit.

“There’s a tremendous value to education in Idaho,” Dickinson continued, “and that story doesn’t get told.”

Ybarra said she agreed with the superintendents’ concerns that students who pursue other avenues, such as joining the military or participating in religious work, are not recognized, but said she has seen a shift in this arena.

“We’re finally starting to have that conversation,” Ybarra said. “So it is a relief to let you know we’re finally starting to look at some of that stuff.”

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