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A small victory for families - Idaho Senate passes expansion of Empowering Parents program

Updated: Jul 21

The Idaho Senate today passed SB 1161, an expansion of the state’s Empowering Parents program. The vote was 19-15-1. It now heads to the House.

Here’s what SB 1161 includes:

  • Expansion of the Empowering Parents to include “micro grants” of $1,000 per student to be used for “eligible education expenses”

  • Addition of transportation to and from a facility where education program is offered as an “eligible” expense

  • Addition of “tuition grant” of $6,000 that can be used for academic instruction, both traditional tuition and/or for the hiring of a certified teacher for a micro-school

There are some limitations. First, the bill makes it clear the money is subject to appropriation by the legislature, meaning it’s not open-ended.

Second, priority is given to students who belong to a family with a gross income under $60,000. If funds are still available, priority is given to students belonging to families with less than $75,000. And if funds are still available after that, money is distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Funds would have to be spent within two years after they are awarded. Micro grants per family are capped at $3,000. And the tuition grants can be given to no more than 2,000 students.

The cost of the bill is $30 million for the ongoing micro grants, as well as $12 million for the tuition grants for five years.

Because the program is labeled a “pilot,” the bill requires the legislature to review the tuition grant process again before the 2028 legislative session.

The bill follows many of the recommendations made in our study Education Choice Improves Outcomes.

While it doesn't go as far as some other proposals, it is a positive step in the right direction and is a small victory for families.

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