top of page

One of these programs is just like the other

There's a very familiar debate going on at the Idaho state capitol, but consistency doesn't appear to be one of the topics.


Idaho legislators seem on the verge of expanding the state’s successful Idaho Launch program. The idea, passed by lawmakers last year, is to help students cover about 80% of the cost of tuition at in-state colleges, universities and workforce training, specifically for in-demand careers at an educational institution that works best for their needs.


The program, itself, is in-demand. Applications have blown past the 7,500 originally expected. At the end of 2023, there were nearly 13,000 applicants.



Opponents of a K-12 tax credit, or any other education choice program, have insisted that state taxpayers should only cover the education expenses of those who stay in the public school system. No private help. No religious institutions. No assistance, even for those who need it most.

But these arguments have not been made against the Launch program.


We asked the Idaho Workforce Development Council for a list of the institutions where the grants for Idaho Launch can be used and where students have applied. It is no surprise that Boise State, Idaho State University and the University of Idaho top the list.


Also near the top is Brigham Young University-Idaho, a private, religious school run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Northwest Nazarene University is another private, religious institution on the list. Dozens of other education businesses not run by the state, including Vogue Beauty School and the Nathan Layne Institute of Cosmetology, are also covered.


When Launch was up for discussion last year, legislators were split. Some called it a way to ensure the state’s future workforce needs were met. Others called it socialism and no different than federal action on student loans.


But ask the sides about their opinion on the K-12 tax credit and you often get a completely different response. Though the concept and aim are very similar, it is rare to find a lawmaker either in favor or opposed to both.  

Yes, there are some differences between Launch and the K-12 tax credit. For example, the tax credit is capped at no more than $50 million. The original price tag for Launch was $75 million. And, indeed, the state constitution has specific language regarding the responsibility to fund K-12 education.

But the biggest difference between the two ideas is that few lobbyists or special interest groups opposed Launch. The same can't be said for the K-12 tax credit.

Whether helping young adults achieve a head start in their careers or providing young students with the opportunities to meet their individual learning needs, the focus should be on what's best for the student.

bottom of page