SC Supreme Court set to hear oral arguments on SAFE grants funding case on Sept. 18


South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster speaks with reporters after the first meeting of accelerateSC, his advisory group about reopening the state economy, on Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – The South Carolina Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments next month regarding Gov. Henry McMaster wanting to use CARES Act funds to provide SAFE grants to help families pay for private, parochial or independent schools.

We reported last month that the governor announced the creation of  Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) Grants, which would be one-time, need-based grants of up to $6,500, and would reportedly help or subsidize the 2020-21 tuition for eligible students participating private, parochial or independent schools in the state.

Around 5,000 SAFE grants would be funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

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 — with $32 million set to be used to fund the SAFE Grants.

Following the governor’s announcement, a Circuit Court judge in Orangeburg County signed a temporary restraining order preventing the state from distributing the grants. The plaintiff’s petition and complaint to the court claimed that McMaster’s plan “violates the portion of the State Constitution that prevents the State from funding private or religious education.”

Two teacher organizations — SCEA and PTSA — also filed an amicus brief against the funds, putting a pause on the spending.

According to a news release from Palmetto Promise officials, the SC Supreme Court agreed to take up the case and oral arguments on the SAFE Grants program have been set for Sept. 18, 2020.

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