SC group promotes school choice

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COLUMBIA — School choice advocates hope a booklet outlining education options in South Carolina boosts the chances of controversial legislation meant to provide more choices.

The Palmetto Policy For­um released a 16-page booklet Thursday that gives public and private school options, along with online links for more information.

The booklet was mailed to 25,000 families with school-age children in South Caro­lina. The conservative think tank also posted an online version that people can scroll through.

The booklet includes sections on public charter and online schools, private schools and home schools.

While traditional schools work for most students, “one size does not fit all in education,” state Superintendent Mick Zais said at Thursday’s news conference.

The booklet describes a limited program starting Jan. 1 for special needs students as a “new opportunity.” The last few pages tout
expanded private-school scholarship programs in other states.

Beginning Jan. 1, South Caro­lina taxpayers can claim dollar-for-dollar tax credits – up to a combined $8 million – for supporting private-school scholarships for children with disabilities.

Legislators passed the program as part of the current state budget, providing a huge win for supporters of private school choice who have tried unsuccessfully since 2004 to pass
separate legislation that uses the tax code to help parents pay for private school tuition.

The program’s future is uncertain. For it to continue after this school year, legislators must insert it into next year’s budget or
approve it as a separate measure.

Opponents of the limited, one-year law worried it would open the door for the broader effort. They have long argued that the state should not subsidize private schools that don’t have to meet state or federal education accountability laws.

A Senate panel is holding hearings on the issue across the state in advance of the next legislative session, which starts in January.


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