BOISE — Candidates for Idaho's top education post sparred over school safety, early education and their vision for student success during a debate on Idaho Public Television Friday night.

Current Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra, a Republican, is a former teacher and previously served as a federal curriculum director in Mountain Home School District in southwestern Idaho. Challenger Cindy Wilson, a Democrat, is a longtime classroom teacher who has served on the state Board of Correction and Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter's education task force.

The two took questions on a range of school topics, the Idaho Press reported, including whether the state should mandate early childhood programs like preschool.

Wilson said state-funded early education programs help close gaps in achievement among students, and preschool has helped tremendously in the districts where it's been implemented.

Ybarra said she doesn't support state-mandated early childhood programs.

Both candidates said they want to continue the so-called career ladder system to improve teacher pay and take further steps to improve educator wages.