Proposal could send low income students to private school with financial help

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- South Carolina lawmakers designated 2019 as the year of education and since January lawmakers have been working around the clock to reform education in the state, find more sources of funding, and address concerns in the classrooms.

One solution being proposed would give parents more options of where to send their child to school. A proposal in subcommittee would create a scholarship account for certain students to use to attend private schools.

“It would take money out of the general ed pot and the parent could send their child to a private school or even a religious school,” explained Sherry East with the SC Education Association.

The “Equal Opportunity Education Scholarship Account” would be available in the first year for 5% of the state’s more than 700,000 students, who meet certain poverty and special needs criteria.

Senator Rex Rice sits on the Senate Education Subcommittee. The group reviewed the proposal Tuesday. Senator Rice explained the goal of the bill.

“They could take an autistic child out of the public school system and send them to a special school where they can get a targeted education.”

Public school advocates say moving money from public schools could have serious consequences on a system already in need of reform.

Public Education Partners is a public education advocacy group in Greenville County. The non-profit focuses on policy reform primarily in Greenville County.

“We’re saying public schools are meeting student’s needs, but we’re not giving the schools the tools they need to be successful. and now we’re talking about taking away a half a billion dollars, said Lindsey Jacobs with PEP.

Sherry East added, “We aren’t taking care of our teachers, our workers, our schools so we don’t really have all this extra money to say ok go do something else.”

But those in favor of a proposal like this say it could help districts save money.

Senator Rice elaborated more on the purpose of the proposal. “What we’re really taking is the operational cost of the child being there so if you remove that child you should decrease the cost of the public school.”

The scholarship fund would also be available for children in foster homes.

In the second year of this account 10% of the students would be eligible for the funds, once again having to meet certain criteria.

Lawmakers are still working on figuring out what that poverty threshold would be for low income students.

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