GEER funds for SAFE grants still on hold while hearing continues

Local News

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – The drama continues over Governor Henry McMaster announcing a more than $30 million commitment to private school education.

Wednesday, in Orangeburg County, a circuit judge heard the arguments for and against the spending.

South Carolina received $48 million as part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund.
$32 million of that would go to private school scholarships called SAFE Grants.

“They both have different learning challenges. They’re on the spectrum for autism.”

Elizabeth Reilly is one of thousands of South Carolina parents who depend on private schools for their child’s education.

Reilly continued, “It’s smaller classrooms. It’s more one-on-one. And kids, who have learning challenges, that’s what they need.”

Recently, Governor McMaster pledged to spend $32 million on scholarships for parents to help send their child to private school. It was an announcement welcomed by the Reilly family.

“Their dad passed away May 6th and he was a Marine veteran and he was our sole provider.”

But the governor’s announcement wasn’t received well by everyone. 2 teacher organizations (SCEA and PTSA) filed an amicus brief against the funds putting a pause on the spending.

Sherry East, the president with the SC Education Association explained why the group felt the need to take action.

“We have mentioned we need counselors, and social workers to find missing children all the things we’re worried about to get back to school and you have the opportunity to put the money there and your don’t do that.”

Wednesday, an Orangeburg county judge heard testimony in a lawsuit filed to stop the release of those funds. Opponents argue the money violates the state’s constitution by sending public funds to private institutions.

But supporters say private schools often miss out on funding needed to support those students too.

“Private schools that have children that are struggling because of covid-19 need to be helped as well,” said Oran Smith with Palmetto Promise.

Reilly added, “It’s very frustrating because we pay taxes but independent schools dont’ reap any benefits. It goes to public schools, which is fine. But the one time independent schools can reap some reward and benefits…”

A decision was not made Wednesday. These discussions will continue at a later date.
However, Governor McMaster says if the judge blocks the funds he will file an appeal.

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