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Republican lawmakers present idea to 'fund students, not systems'

The Hope and Opportunity Scholarship would create an education savings account for Idaho families looking to go down that path.

BOISE, Idaho — New legislation in the Idaho House aims to create more education options for Idaho families. The Hope and Opportunity Scholarship would create an education savings account for families looking to go down that path.

“This act would allow dollars to follow students so parents could access education services environments that work best for their children,” Republican Rep. Dorothy Moon said.

The concept is sponsored by both Rep. Moon and Republican Rep. Gayann DeMordaunt.

“Families can use these funds for private tutoring, curriculum, tuition, or fees at a private school,” Moon said.

Additionally, the program would allow funding for things like an online learning program, tutoring, individual classes, extracurricular services, services contracted for and provided by a public district, charter or magnet school, textbooks, computer hardware and technology.

Moon explained the major factor of who would be eligible for the program.

"To be eligible, the family, their household income is less than the or equal to the 250% of the income necessary to qualify for the national school choice lunch program," Moon said. "Additionally, the student must be enrolled in an Idaho public school for 45 days before applying."

According to Rep. Moon, funding of the program goes as follows:

“80% of the most-current available statewide average general maintenance and operation fund expenditures per full-term average daily attendance as calculated by the department, or approximately $5,950 dollars will be available for eligible students,” Moon said.

The goal is to allow families to pursue education options that best fit their students. Moon said in terms of transparency and use of tax dollars, there will be checks and balances. 

For example, Moon said the program would include an up-to-date education service providers list that will be approved and can be added as time goes on.

“There will be annual audits of individual accounts that will be performed by the department or by a private contracted provider, to ensure that our public dollars are being used wisely,” Moon said.

The proposal puts aside around $130,000 dollars to fund students interested in the program. Rep. DeMordaunt said they are basing funding and interest from similar programs in other states.

“Based on what has happened, the uptake of this in other states is right around 2000 students," DeMordaunt said. "That is 1% of our total students in the state." 

The House Education Committee printed the bill after committee approval. It is expected to appear in committee next week for further discussion and debate.

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