$32M of SC’s CARES Act funds to go to SAFE grants for private school students’ tuition


GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – Gov. Henry McMaster announced Monday the creation of the Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) Grants during a news conference at Hampton Park Christian School.

According to the release, the one-time, needs-based grants of up to $6,500 will reportedly help or subsidize the 2020-21 tuition for eligible students participating private, parochial or independent schools in the state.

Around 5,000 grants will be funded, and according to the release they are being funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

According to the release, each state received an allocation for a Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, and South Carolina’s share of the funds was $48 million — $32 million will be used to fund SAFE Grants.

The governor also recently invested $2.4 million to the state’s eight historically black colleges and universities. Read the news release here.

According to the release, a student must be from a household with an adjust gross income of 300% or less of the federal poverty level.

“Private schools in our state provide an essential education to over 50,000 children,” McMaster said. “They provide parents the ability to choose the type of education environment and instruction they feel best suits their child’s unique needs. And a large number of these students come from working or low-income families, who in the best economy, are barely able to scrimp and scrape together just enough money to pay their child’s tuition.”

“During this pandemic, with so much uncertainty and anxiety facing families, a child’s displacement from the school they love and thrive at could have devastating consequences to their learning and emotional progress,” McMaster said.

The Palmetto State Teachers Association issued a statement following the governor’s announcement Monday morning, saying they were disappointed with his decision to direct $32 million in federal funding to the new SAFE Grant scholarship program.

“As an organization, the Palmetto State Teachers Association strongly supports public school choice, so long as the schools receiving public funding are required to meet the same requirements for accountability and accessibility as our state’s public schools. However, today’s action by the Governor will allow federal public dollars to flow to independent schools that are not subject to public accountability standards. These schools are also not accessible to all South Carolina students, as they can deny admissions to students based on criteria such as a student’s religion, sexual orientation, or disability status. The federal tax dollars used for the SAFE grant program are paid by all South Carolinians, meaning those dollars should only be used for schools that are open to all of our students.”

Read the full statement below:

South Carolina State Senators Thomas McElveen (D-Sumter) and Karl Allen (D-Greenville) also released a joint statement following the governor’s announcement:

“Just a week after he announced that he expects our public school teachers to put their health and safety on the line to return to classrooms this fall, Governor McMaster has turned around and stripped away vital funding that they need to do their jobs. 

The hard-earned tax dollars that were meant for our public schools should never be directed anywhere else, no less in the midst of a public health crisis that already has our districts pinching pennies to keep children, teachers, and staff safe. As leaders in this moment, we should be doing everything in our power to get public schools the resources they desperately need, not taking their funding away. 

South Carolina has shamefully underfunded our public schools for decades— writing checks to private institutions should be the least of the Governor’s worries when it comes to education right now. It is overwhelmingly disappointing to see him play politics with our children’s education and the safety of South Carolinians.”

Senators Thomas MElveen (D-Sumter) and Karl Allen (D-Greenville)

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