Bill Description: House Bill 215 provides grants and scholarships for families so they may personalize their child's educational experience to fit every child’s unique needs.
Does it create, expand, or enlarge any agency, board, program, function, or activity of government? Conversely, does it curtail the size or scope of government?
House Bill 215 has two parts. First, it creates the Strong Families, Strong Students grant program which would give families $500 per student to use for educational expenses, such as textbooks, tuition and fees at a private school, computers, therapy, or career technical education.
Second, House Bill 215 provides scholarships to families that are worth 90% of state spending per student, or $6,041 to use for the same types of educational expenses as the grant program.
The Strong Families, Strong Students program expands education options for low income families outside of traditional public schools, which would curtail the size, scope, and monopoly power of government in providing for education.
Does it give government any new, additional or expanded power to prohibit, restrict or regulate activities in the free market? Conversely, does it eliminate or reduce government intervention in the market?
House Bill 215 transfers power from the government to families by trusting parents to make education decisions for their children. In this way, House Bill 215 would reduce the government’s intervention in the education marketplace in which government officials force students into a one-size-fits-all education system. Parents observe their children everyday, and they are best suited to understand their child’s educational needs. Providing funding and resources directly to families to use for students’ educational needs makes the education system more flexible and student centered, which reduces the role of government officials in determining the method determining what education looks like.
Does it increase government spending (for objectionable purposes) or debt? Conversely, does it decrease government spending or debt?
House Bill 215’s grant program would use $30 million in one-time federal funds and $5 million in ongoing state general funds, and the scholarship program would use $5 million in ongoing state general funds. This brings the cost to a total of $10 million dollars from the general fund, and $30 million to be found elsewhere in coming years. The state could cut existing spending in the general fund and reallocate r $10 million for these programs, or it could increase spending by $10 million in the general fund in coming years. Since public schools do not need to receive funding for students they are not educating, existing education dollars should not stay behind in a public school when a child leaves, as this bill contemplates.
Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency and accountability Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability?
House Bill 215 creates a “Parent Advisory Panel,” which is a group of 7 parents of students who have applied or intend to apply for program funds. Members will serve for one-year terms with the option for successive terms and will represent different regions of Idaho. These parents will discuss the implementation, execution and results of the programs and make recommendations to the State Board of Education to improve the program. This change increases government transparency and accountability by giving parents direct oversight of the program.
The bill directs the State Board of Education to designate a third party to audit participants in the program to verify that grant funds are only used for eligible education expenses. House Bill 215 also requires the State Board of Education to report to legislative education committees on the characteristics and results of the Strong Families, Strong Students program.
These requirements ensure the State Board of Education is directly accountable to families and to the Legislature for the program. The third party audit provides accountability and transparency to the public by ensuring taxpayer funds are only used for eligible educational expenses.
Does it violate the spirit or the letter of either the United States Constitution or the Idaho Constitution? Conversely, does it restore or uphold the protections guaranteed in US Constitution or the Idaho Constitution?
The grant program is available to students regardless of the type of education they receive. This includes students at public schools, charter schools, private schools or homeschools. In a post- Espinoza world, all students must be allowed to use tax dollars for educational purposes, regardless of the school they choose to attend.
The scholarship program is only available to students who previously attended public schools or who currently attend public schools but need a different education option. Additionally, House Bill 215 restricts access to the grant and scholarship program based on income brackets. Grants are available first to families who make below $50,000 per year, and then to families earning up to $75,000, and finally to everyone else if there are any funds remaining. This restriction discriminates against children by providing more or less funding to students based on who their parents are.
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