New round of Empowering Parents grants goes live Thursday

The second round of the Empowering Parents grant program goes live Thursday.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Mountain time, parents and guardians can apply for their share of the microgrants, which cover out-of-pocket education costs such as computers, internet and learning materials.

Parents can apply for grants totaling $1,000 per child or $3,000 per family.

Grant eligibility is based on income: households with an adjusted gross income of $60,000 or less will have the first shot at the money. Then, households with an AGI of $75,000 or less can apply. After that, any leftover grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.

The State Board of Education has $30 million of state funding to award, after the 2023 Legislature funded Gov. Brad Little’s request for permanent state funding.

Parents will have more spending options this year.

At the recommendation of a parents’ advisory panel, the State Board expanded the list of eligible purchases. Among other items, the new list now includes sports gear and athletic fees; dance uniforms and shoes; fees for camps and extracurricular classes; and computer cases and backpacks.

Parents who received grants in 2022-23 are eligible for a new round of money, but they must reapply.

A series of hiccups beset the first year of the Empowering Parents program, which was funded with $50 million of federal coronavirus aid.

After receiving complaints and reports of improper taxpayer-funded purchases — for items such as TV sets, cameras and smart watches — the State Board launched an in-house review in the spring. Primary Class — the state’s Empowering Parents vendor, known also as Odyssey — agreed to reimburse the state $180,000 to cover the cost of the improper purchases. Odyssey also agreed to return nearly $500,000 in interest earned off the federal funding.

Gov. Brad Little has ordered an independent audit of the program.

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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