BOISE, Idaho — During a press conference on Friday afternoon, Idaho Gov. Brad Little announced he will be directing around $150 million to public schools beginning in October.
$99 million will be given directly to schools to be used for COVID-19 relief, like purchasing devices for remote learning or establishing internet connection for students.
The money must be spent this year and must be used on COVID-related expenses.
Another $50 million will be set aside and used for direct payments to Idaho families through the governor's Strong Families, Strong Students initiative.
Parents will be directed $1,500 per eligible K-12 student and can receive a maximum of $3,500 per family. Eligibility requirements have not yet been determined but the state's intent is to begin giving funds to families on a need basis, then an income basis.
Little estimated that 30,000 students and 15,000 families would benefit from these direct funds.
"My goal is to make Idaho a place where our children choose to stay and, for those that left, to choose to return," Little said. "We simply cannot meet that goal without a strong public education system in place."
State Board of Education President Debbie Critchfield and Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra were present during the press conference.
Following the soft closure of all Idaho schools in March, school districts were faced with considering the outlook of the yearly education budget. This allocation of funds is nothing short of perfect timing, according to Critchfield.
"I'm hopeful that our boards will be as deliberate and considerate in their thoughts with the restoration of the funds as they have been with the reduction of funds," she said. "That they're careful and they understand the environment and the landscape they're working in. This can contribute to their overall effort."
The past several months have been a difficult time for Idaho parents, students and educators, according to Ybarra. In order to make the most of these funds, a webinar will be held next week for educators to offer suggestions about how the money should be spent.
"Throughout this process, it's been tough enough," Ybarra said. "But again, it just feels like an exciting day, turning a corner and moving into the school year with a governor who really had his eye on public education."
Little's coronavirus relief task force plans to finalize allocation plans for schools at their meeting next week. Eligibility requirements for the direct payments have not yet been set but will be shortly.
The press conference comes days after Central District Health moved Ada County into the "yellow" category, allowing schools to welcome students back to the classroom in a spread-out manner.
To watch Gov. Little's full press conference, click below.