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Parent Survey and Focus Group Findings from Idaho’s Empowering Parents Program

Below are the findings from the focus groups and survey of Idaho parents who received funding from Idaho’s Empowering Parents grant program. These findings are based on an online survey conducted January 17-26, 2023, with 359 parents who applied for an Empowering Parents grant. The survey work was conducted by the New York City-based FDR Group and funded by the Walton Family Foundation. Bluum was proud to coordinate the efforts on the ground in Idaho. Our hope is that this work helps strengthen support for the Empowering Parents Program while also providing ideas for improvements.

From Parent Focus Groups:

“I’m usually not one who does surveys for anything, because I mean, you’ve always got reviews for Google, or reviews for this, or reviews for that, and it’s like, “So many people are opinionated. What does my opinion even matter?” But, to see how hard you guys are trying to make sure that kids succeed, and seeing the effort that you guys put out, and the grade at communication that you guys have, this is the first time I’ve actually even tried to do a survey or anything, so … Y’all motivated me.” Mt Home Parent

Summary of Survey Findings:

Finding 1.

Parents broadly believe that the Empowering Parents grant will help Idaho’s students in significant ways. Majorities say the grant funds will improve their own child’s learning and well-being—and improve student learning statewide.

Finding 2.

A main goal of the Empowering Parents program is to provide grant funds “for use towards eligible education services and devices to help students recover from the learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.” The parents surveyed believe that the program addresses a bona fide need for extra help in the aftermath of the pandemic.

Finding 3.

Parents use the Empowering Parents grant for a variety of resources and services, with school supplies, computers/accessories, and instructional materials topping the list. A plurality believes that private school tuition should be an eligible purchase. While some plan to spend their grant funds right away, others have a wait-and-see approach.

Finding 4.

Parents believe that there are “too many parents” in Idaho who don’t know about the Empowering Parents grant even though they could benefit from it, and most say they have spread the word about the grant to other parents. They themselves first heard about the program via social media, news reports, and direct contact from people they know.

Finding 5.

Many parents feel that the Empowering Parents online marketplace needs to improve. Their concerns center around a lack of vendors and long waits for approval.

Finding 6.

Parents are generally satisfied with the process in place to apply for an Empowering Parents grant. But communication with parents needs serious improvement, according to almost half of those surveyed.

Finding 7.

Misuse of funds is low on parents’ list of concerns about the Empowering Parents program.

Finding 8.

Parents in North Idaho differ from parents in other parts of the state when it comes to homeschooling and support for using the Empowering Parents grant for private school tuition. Parents in South Central Idaho stand out in that they are more satisfied with how the grant is being administered—and more likely to be Hispanic—compared with parents in other regions.