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Op-Ed: Critchfield Sends Message to School Officials

By • November 18, 2022

You’d think that a candidate might want to take a short break after 18 months of campaigning and scoring a landslide victory on election night. Not Debbie Critchfield, the resounding winner of the race for state superintendent of public instruction. The day after the election, she was on an airplane to the State School Board Association Conference in Coeur d’Alene to meet with school board members throughout the state, superintendents, and business managers.

It wasn’t the most lavish victory celebration after getting almost 70 percent of the vote in her victory over Democrat Terry Gilbert. But Critchfield says she wouldn’t have it any other way. “This is where I need to be – with the people who are doing the work for their local communities,” Critchfield told me. And it gave her an opportunity to send a message that the bureaucratic divisions between the Department of Education and the State Board of Education are coming to an end. Not surprisingly, she received a warm reception to her victory from a lot of familiar faces.

Critchfield, who lives in Oakley, is a former board member with the Cassia school district and a former president of the State Board of Education. During her campaign, Critchfield got an earful of complaints and concerns from school officials. “What I heard before the election and after, among other things, was there has been a divide between the Department of Education and State Board,” Critchfield said. “For districts, it has been challenging and frustrating to have two different messages, and often, two different interpretations on questions about laws and policy.”

Critchfield touts her strong working relationship with State Board President Kurt Liebich, so that’s at least one thing she won’t need to figure out in the transition to her new job. Her visit to Coeur d’Alene, she says, is an example of what’s to come as state superintendent. She will be on the road a lot, talking and listening to educators throughout the state. But the road show will have to wait a bit. Her immediate priority is preparing for the legislative session, fine-tuning the budget, and meeting with a slate of new legislative leaders and committee chairs.

“That’s what my December will look like,” Critchfield says. During the session, legislators – who complained about lack of access with outgoing Superintendent Sherri Ybarra during her eight years in office — will be seeing plenty of Critchfield in the committee rooms. “During the legislative session, the superintendent needs to be the advocate for K-12, and that will be my primary focus,” she said. “I’m not outsourcing that to someone who works at the department, or hiring a special legislative liaison. That’s the job I was hired for.”

And this is a job that she has been preparing to land for more than 20 years, with her involvement in education. Living in Oakley, she also understands that some sharp educators can be found in the rural schools.

Ah, but give her at least a little time to reflect on those impressive election results. Getting almost 70 percent of the vote in a spirited campaign race is quite an accomplishment, even for a Republican in Idaho. Ybarra, by comparison, won her two races by thin margins. “I think the work I put into it was reflected in the results,” Critchfield says.

There are personal adjustments that lie ahead – including here and her husband, Dave, getting a second home in Boise. “We’re excited about the venture,” she says. As for the job itself, it appears she will be ready to go on Day One.

Chuck Malloy is a long-time Idaho journalist and columnist. He may be reached at

This Op-Ed was submitted by Chuck Malloy. Op-Eds do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of those at the Idaho Dispatch.

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Tags: 2023 Legislative Session, Debbie Critchfield, Department of Education, Kurt Liebich, State Board of Education, State Superintendent of Education, State Superintendent of Public Instruction

12 thoughts on “Op-Ed: Critchfield Sends Message to School Officials

    1. Leading to the continued destruction of our kids and grandkids education: relative Critchfield, dictator Bekde, compromised Little, communist school Winder, and all of their go along minions in the House and Senate only serve to promote the teachers union’s communist manifesto by default.
      Government Schools should be held to a maximum of 40% of the budget, the rest going to School Voucher, Homeschooling, Private Educators so that our Idaho School system has pure competition and our the kids could truly benefit from a sound education.
      With Bedke at her side and dinner table, Critchfield will accomplish little to nothing positive in this position.
      Just another rino/democrat in a State turned Blue.

    2. The only reason she got 70% of the vote was because the RINOs didn’t have to jump ship to vote for the Democrat in order to find a socialist/indoctrinator to vote for. The only positive thing I can say about her election is that Terry Gilbert was worse. Buckle your seat belts–this is going to be a rough ride.

  1. “And it gave her an opportunity to send a message that the bureaucratic divisions between the Department of Education and the State Board of Education are coming to an end. Not surprisingly, she received a warm reception to her victory from a lot of familiar faces.”

    Did that statement from this article give anyone else some bad vibes and chills? It sounds of a big RINO again in our midst. I don’t know enough about Crutchfield to know, but I would welcome some posts regarding Crutchfield just being an establishment RINO or not.

    1. I’ve had bad vibes about this woman since long before the election….and this article pretty much bore them out. The fact that she is already cozy with a corrupt and broken system just underscores the problem.

  2. Mr. Malloy needs to do more homework on the people he is writing about because he doesn’t have a clue as to who this women is nor do I think he cares. If anyone thinks that Debbie will fix the problems with our education system you had better think again because this is the one person who should not be in this position. She was back by just about every Rino in the state and you can bet that she will be taking order from them for the next 4 years as our children suffer with the same inefficient education process that has been in place in our state for more than a decade. When will Idahoans figure out who the good guys are because I will tell you this lady is one huge mistake for Idahos education system.

  3. Until the unionized teachers are gone education will be disgusting and too costly for the quality of the children’s education.

  4. I agree with Louise C. The teachers union should be gone. In fact, this country needed unions 100 years ago but most are not needed now. They have become a powerful influential force, and we suffer because of it. Let’s see what Debbie does in the next 4 years because we don’t have a choice. If she turns out to be a RINO, hopefully we will have a better choice next time.

    1. And in the meantime? Math and reading scores are in the toilet and continually plummeting. So when these uneducated kids finally manage to graduate from high school, the parents will wonder why they can’t get into college or get a job. Every year that children are left in that Leftist institution they fall further and further behind and come out progressive idiots.

  5. Sick of this op-ed writer. I can get his drivel at Idaho Statesman if I wanted. I definitely won’t be renewing my annual subscription to Idaho Dispatch in 2023.

  6. School board elections are coming up soon. Time to take the boards away from the indoctrinators and return them to common sense parents! We have to send the message from the bottom up that we will not stand for this crap coming from the feds, state and teachers unions!

  7. Critchfield enjoyed the full support of RINO stalwarts and the media didn’t complain much. She was picked to stem off the potential change maker Brenden Durst. It didn’t matter much after that. We will still see Marxist programming slither in quietly where little doors are opened for it.

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