Idaho waives tuition for kids of U.S. military members who died. Some don’t qualify

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Idaho National Guard

Idaho’s U.S. Armed Forces scholarships provide college tuition waivers for children of U.S. military members killed, permanently disabled or captured in conflict. But the children of the three Idaho National Guard pilots who died last year currently don’t qualify — because the pilots didn’t die in combat.

A new bill would change that.

House Bill 461 would allow children of service members killed or permanently disabled during inactive duty training to also receive the State Board of Education scholarships — including kids of the three Idaho National Guard pilots, who died last year in a helicopter training accident near Boise.

It’s the first piece of legislation championed by Rep. Chris Mathias, a first-term Boise Democrat and U.S. Coast Guard veteran. Mathias said the bill is “nonpartisan.” It’s co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Woodward, a Sagle Republican and U.S. Navy veteran.

Mathias said Tuesday that he conceived of the bill after he attended a memorial service for the National Guardsmen and watched the widows interacting with their children.

“It impacted me,” Mathias said during a Tuesday House Education Committee meeting.

Black Hawk helicopter crashes near Lucky Peak Lake

On Feb. 2, 2021, an Idaho National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter went down near Lucky Peak Lake, southeast of Boise. The aircraft was carrying CW4 Jesse Anderson, CW3 George “Geoff” Laubhan and CW3 Matthew Peltzer — members of the 1st Battalion of the 183rd Aviation Regiment and decorated chief warrant officers.

An investigation found that the Black Hawk crew lost visuals due to snowy weather and fog. The experienced pilots were unable to correct their elevation before the helicopter crashed, killing the three guardsmen.

After the memorial, Mathias said he called the State Board of Education to confirm the combined eight children of the three guardsman would be eligible for scholarships. Mathias said he was surprised to learn that they would not be eligible because their fathers did not die in combat.

Only one person, at least in the last couple decades, has been denied the scholarship, Mathias said.

The scholarships provide a full tuition waiver as well as a $500 stipend per semester for books and housing.

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