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Try, try again on expanding education choice in Idaho

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

Education choice is on the agenda again as the Idaho legislature comes down the home stretch. This week, two bills will be heard in committee that would expand options for Idaho families.

They don't go as far as SB 1038 did, but SB 1144 and HB 289 still move the ball down the field.

The legislation would create a program called the Idaho Education Opportunity Program (IEOP) which would create Education Savings Accounts that include 80% of the per-student state funding ($6,975) could be used for educational purposes, including tuition, at an accredited private school or on other education-related expenses including "reasonable transportation, education equipment and technology, educational therapies, fees for testing, admissions, fees to manage the IEOP account, tuition for individual classes, uniforms, tutoring, and technology devices."

There are some restrictions. First, students with a family income level of less than $70,000 are given priority. Second, to renew the account parents have to demonstrate that their student is at grade level, or has shown one full year of academic growth.

The new version of the bill also has several changes from that previous proposal:

  • Requires a prompt response on applications

  • On renewal of IEOP student at a private school, the parent shall provide to the state the results of the nationally normed test

As lawmakers consider the proposal this week, it is important they fully understand what it would and would not do.

At the previous committee meeting, several legislators made the mistake of calling ESA's "vouchers." As we have previously pointed out, there is a big difference between the two.

Furthermore, it's important to note that, even if families decide to take advantage of the program, 20% of a student's funds would still go to the public school. This means it is likely that per-student funding in Idaho public schools would increase and overcrowding would ease.

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