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.
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.