Thirty-nine parents want to help the state build an education microgrant program — and more than half of these applicants come from the Treasure Valley.
The Parent Advisory Council will recommend ways to “implement, administer and improve” the Empowering Parents program — which provides grants to cover families’ out-of-pocket education costs, such as computers, internet access or tutoring.
The council will begin its work as the state turns Empowering Parents into a permanent program. In 2022, the state funded the grants program with $50 million in one-time federal coronavirus aid. The 2023 Legislature voted to earmark $30 million of state money for an ongoing permanent grant program.
But the State Board of Education is putting the fledgling program under scrutiny. On Friday, the State Board said it is reviewing Empowering Parents, amidst reports that some families have used their grant money to cover unauthorized purchases, such as clothes, TVs, smart watches and household cleaning supplies.
Last week was the deadline for parents to apply for a spot on the advisory council.
Of the 39 applicants, 21 came from Southwest Idaho, said Scott Graf, a spokesman for state superintendent Debbie Critchfield. That includes eight applicants from Boise, four from Meridian and three from Nampa.
Here’s how the applications break down by region:
- North Idaho: 5.
- North-central Idaho: 2.
- Treasure Valley: 21.
- Magic Valley: 7.
- Southeast Idaho: None.
- Upper Snake River Valley: 4.
From here, Gov. Brad Little will select three advisory council members. House Speaker Mike Moyle and Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder will pick two council members apiece. They’re expected to select council members by mid-May.
The council is expected to meet for the first time in early June, with Critchfield serving as a nonvoting chairperson.