BOISE — Legislation creating an “Empowering Parents” grant program was advanced to the House floor with a favorable recommendation on Wednesday.
Senate Bill 1255 has already passed the Senate 34-1.
Empowering Parents is modeled after the popular “Strong Families, Strong Students” grant program that the Legislative Assembly created in 2020. It provides up to $1,000 per student – with a maximum of $3,000 per family – to be used for eligible educational expenses.
“I have worked for many years to obtain additional resources for students with the greatest needs. We have a state funding formula that still doesn’t, but this bill is a step toward meeting those needs,” said Rep. Wendy Horman, R-Idaho Falls, who co-sponsored the project. law with Senator Lori Den Hartog, R-Meridian.
The $1,000 grants would be available to all public and private school students from K-12.
Eligible expenses include everything from computers to internet access, software, teaching materials, university entrance exam fees, private tutors and services such as occupational therapy or speech therapy .
Unlike Strong Families grants, Horman said, Empowering Parents grants could not be used for private school tuition.
The National Board of Education would administer the program with the help of a parent advisory committee. The board should approve all vendors and service providers; they would be registered on a digital platform where parents could choose the services they want.
The Idaho School Boards Association, Idaho Association of School Administrators, Idaho Charter School Network, and Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry all testified in support of the legislation.
The grant program would be subject to statutory appropriations, meaning there would only be the amount of money available approved by lawmakers.
However, Horman is proposing that $50 million in federal coronavirus stimulus funding be made available, along with $1.18 million in state general fund support to cover administrative costs.
The grants would initially be available to families whose adjusted gross income is less than $60,000 per year. This would increase to $75,000 two months after the application window opens, and then to families with incomes above $75,000 after two more months.