Parents with income levels at or below $60,000 per year can apply for grants this summer created by the Idaho State Board of Education to help with their children’s education.
“This program is a step forward in empowering parents with the chance to help their child with their education,” said Julie Nawrocki, mathematics teacher at Skyline High School and president of the Idaho Falls Education Association.
From Senate Bill 1255, the Idaho Legislature approved $51 million from The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 for the Empowering Parents Program, according to Madison Hardy, press secretary for Gov. Brad Little.
The Empowering Parents Program was created in an effort to combat learning loss which worsened during COVID-19. The program is aimed at curbing the loss and propelling the students forward for their upcoming school year.
“The learning loss during the pandemic was drastic, with some kids not learning at all between the beginning of spring to the end of fall 2020,” Nawrocki said. “Students were not receiving the education they deserved from the online or hybrid school schedules we had to adopt during the pandemic”
The program grants will be available and assessed according to need, Hardy said.
“First to families with an adjusted gross income at or below $60,000 per year, then to those with an adjusted gross income at or below $75,000 per year, then to all income levels, Hardy said. “Tiers will open as money is available.”
Once the grant is available to a parent’s adjusted gross income bracket, they will be eligible to apply for $1,000 per student with a maximum of $3,000 a household, Hardy said.
“The Empowering Parents grants reinforce this fact — a person’s education starts in the home,” Little said when signing the grant program into law. “Parents are in the driver’s seat, as they should be and always will be in Idaho. The Empowering Parents grants put families in control of their child’s education and helps set them up for success. The children today will become the workforce of tomorrow. We want our Idaho students to receive a strong foundation of learning now so they can stay here and make our state prosperous for future generations.”
This new grant program will provide parents help with education expenses including materials, technology, services and transportation, allowing for continued education throughout the summer.
Students experienced major learning loss during the pandemic, but learning loss is not a new epidemic or specific to the COVID-19 era. Educators, parents and students alike have been dealing with the loss of fundamental learning at the beginning of every new school year as students halt their education efforts during the summer months.
“Summer forces us to initiate a trifecta of help, as educators, parents and students must work together to find solutions and keep from losing all that students have learned during the year,” Nawrocki said.
Sarah Cherry, principal at Fox Hollow Elementary School, said that the “summer-slide” had always been an issue for schools. Cherry shared a list of things parents can do with their children to curb the learning loss that happened over COVID-19 and continues to happen over summer break.
• Read with them every single day. Reading helps children to grow their vocabulary and learn new information.
• Play games/board games with them. Playing games can grow their math skills, ability to win or lose appropriately, and strengthen their ability to follow rules.
• Cook with them when safe. Take away the one cup measuring cup and help them figure out how to get the same amount with different measurements.
• Explore the outdoors with them. Going outside, learning about nature, developing larger vocabularies, learning safety, these are all skills that will allow for less learning loss for the new year.
Brooke Stosich, learning loss interventionist coordinator for District 91, provided a list of things you could do at the beginning of the new school year to lessen the blow of summer learning loss.
Idaho Falls School District 91 is given federal funding to help with learning loss and there are many things parents can do to take advantage of that funding when their children return to school, Stosich said.
• Connect and communicate with teachers, principals and counselors to stay updated on their child’s performance, be involved and catch things early.
• Participate in new programs that are being funded at their children’s schools. After-school programs, extracurricular activities and tutoring could be offered at the children’s school.
• Learn more about the Idaho Virtual Academy. If their child is finding happiness and success in the brick-and-mortar schools, the virtual academy provides instruction for grades K-8.
“As teachers we are not so much trying to focus on learning lost but instead on learning found. We want their love of learning to come back,” Nawrocki said.