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Education savings accounts hearing goes into a second day

The dome of the Idaho Statehouse at sunset with an American flag and Idaho flag.
James Dawson
Boise State Public Radio

A state Senate committee has postponed voting on a bill that would let parents use taxpayer money to pay for private school tuition, tutoring or homeschooling materials.

The program is estimated to cost $45 million in its first year and cover about 6,600 kids. Setting aside administrative costs, it breaks down to about $6,000 per student.

Opponents, like Karen Hansen from Viola, worry this legislation would eventually bleed dry public schools.

“When you have a problem with a public school system, you don’t defund it – and it’s already half-starved – and this bill is going to further defund public schools,” Hansen said.

Idaho ranks last in the country for education spending by student per capita during the 2019-2020 school year, according to the National Education Association.

“As a homeschooler myself, I’m more concerned about the growth of what I view as a growing government monopoly in the public education system,” said Sen. Brian Lenney (R-Nampa), one of the bill’s sponsors.

Nearly 40 people testified over two hours Tuesday, with another 70 on the list before lawmakers paused the hearing.

Opinions were nearly split, though a poll commissioned by the Idaho Statesman last year found nearly two-thirds of adults objected to using taxpayer money to help pay for private school.

Supporters argue they should be able to use their tax dollars how they want.

Dominic Brandon, a Republican precinct committeeman from Middleton, homeschools his three children.

“I’m paying extra to have that freedom, and I’m not using the public resources at the public school,” Brandon said.

The Senate Education Committee will continue taking testimony at 3 p.m. Wednesday with a vote possible later in the afternoon.

Follow James Dawson on Twitter @RadioDawson for more local news.

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I cover politics and a bit of everything else for Boise State Public Radio. Outside of public meetings, you can find me fly fishing, making cool things out of leather or watching the Seattle Mariners' latest rebuilding season. If you have a tip, please get in touch!

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