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Idaho Senate committee passes expansion of Empowering Parents program

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Some progress is being made to expand education choice options in Idaho. The Idaho Senate Education committee today passed SB 1161, an expansion of the state’s Empowering Parents program.

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.

MSPC was asked to testify before lawmakers during the hearing. Here’s what we said:

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