On Tuesday morning, Idaho Governor Brad Little joined legislative and state education leaders to announce the formation of a Parent Advisory Council for the Empowering Parents grant program. This council will counsel the State Board of Education on ways to improve the grant program. The announcement came after a proposal was made to the House Education Committee to expand the grant program to pay for private school tuition, which Little opposed, stating that taking money from public education and putting it toward private institutions is unacceptable.
Little's proposed budget recommends $30 million in ongoing funding to make the Empowering Parents program permanent, which was created last year to provide grants for education needs, from tutoring to technology. The grants can be as much as $1,000 per student or $3,000 per family. Continuation of the program would require legislative approval this session.
The advisory council will be made up of seven members from across the state and will be tasked with strengthening the program. Three members will be appointed by the governor, two by the Senate pro tem, and two by the House speaker. Parents of K-12 students in Idaho can apply to be on the council, with preference for parents who have applied for funds or who intend to. Superintendent of Public Instruction Debbie Critchfield will be the nonvoting chairperson of the council.
The council will travel the state over the summer to meet with Idaho families and hear their input in the grant program. The advisory council will then create a report to present to the State Board of Education in the fall. The goal is to get real feedback from the parents who are actually using this program, which will be the driver for how to continue improving it, said Kurt Liebich, president of the state education board.