As the legislative session draws to a close, we’re paying close attention to the crucial policies working their way through the Idaho House and Senate. One of those essential policies includes House Bill 24, which expands the Launch Program for Idaho students. This bill passed the Idaho House. In the coming days, the Senate will consider this legislation. In fact, senators may have already voted when you read this column.
We’re here to tell you why the Launch Program will make a big difference for many Idaho students. At the same time, we also need to clear up some of the confusion. Some special interests have attacked the program as being socialist or more big government. They’re wrong. Launch represents a hand up not a handout.
From certifications to apprenticeships, traditional higher ed financing doesn’t provide many options for students. Updating the Launch program creates a bridge for students whose interests and skills benefit more from a technical education. With Launch, these students can receive training and education in Idaho and fill many of the in-demand jobs currently going unfilled in our great state.
Through Launch, we can offer a home-grown solution to our workforce shortages. These grants provide seed money to help young people find a pathway to securing their futures. We don’t need to go out of state to find our talent. We’ve got what we need right here — if we’re willing to make the investment.
For example, Idaho National Lab projects it will need thousands of employees for new positions and to replace an aging workforce. Many of these careers require targeted technical training while offering stable jobs that keep our kids in our communities. Many other growing organizations in east Idaho report similar needs. They’ve got the demand. Now, they need employees to help fill it.
Contrary to the claims of special interests funded by dark money, the Launch Program doesn’t undercut the Idaho work ethic. It does prioritize education tied to jobs with existing demand. Think of it as getting the best bang for the buck. Investing now in these types of jobs and training helps Idaho remain competitive with neighboring states. We want our kids to stay here, not migrate to Washington or Oregon.
We also expect students to have skin in the game. These scholarships won’t fund the full tuition, but they will open the door for a student to get started. It will be up to the student to buckle down and be successful. Launch simply offers an opportunity not previously available to students in these fields.
Claims that spending in Launch will go unchecked ignore the reality. Once awarded, these dollars can only apply to tuition and fees. They can’t spend taxpayer dollars on frat houses or pizza. Every year the legislature will have the opportunity to weigh in on this program and adjust as needed. Legislative oversight will ensure both accountability and success.
With Launch, we believe Idaho offers a better option to our students. We say we want the next generation to learn and work in our great state. It’s time we meet the moment and provide a program that helps make this goal a reality. We support Launch because it keeps Idaho moving forward without sacrificing our commitment to fiscal responsibility. Let’s go, Idaho.
Written by Sen. Van Burtenshaw, Sen. Julie VanOrden, Sen. Kevin Cook, Rep. Marco Erickson, Rep. Rod Furniss, Sen. Dave Lent, Rep. Stephanie Mickelsen, Rep. Britt Raybould, Rep. Jerald Raymond, Rep. Jon Weber and Rep. Josh Wheeler.
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