COLUMBIA, S.C. — Monday morning, Governor Henry McMaster announced $32 million of CARES Act funding will be allocated to private schools in South Carolina. The funding will be used to give students a one-time, needs-based grant of up to $6,500 to help pay for their tuition.
“We want all the children in South Carolina, wherever they live, whatever their circumstances, to be able to get the best education in the United States. That’s our goal and I think this is one step in that direction,” McMaster says during his press conference in Greenville.
He created the Safe Access to Flexible Education Grants (SAFE Grants) from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund.
“[There are] a lot of families that would like to have the choice to send their children to one of these other schools, private, independent schools, who just can’t make the ends meet. And there are some that are in these schools now that are working and struggling to make those ends meet and because of the virus, they’re going to have even greater difficulty if not impossible so that’s what this addresses.”
To be eligible, a student must attend private school in South Carolina and live in a household with an adjusted gross income of 300% or less of the federal poverty level. That’s $78,600 a year for a family of four.
The Governor has a total of $48 million from federal CARES Act funding he can give out as emergency education relief. $32 million of that is going to private schools.
Reverend Doug Slaughter from Second Baptist Christian Prep in Aiken says, “this grant makes it possible for us to do what we love to do. And that is to give hope to young people. Thank you, Governor.”
While Slaughter praises McMaster for the grants, public-school teachers are doing the exact opposite.
In a written statement, the Palmetto State Teachers Association says,
“[We are] disappointed in Governor McMaster’s decision to direct $32 million in federal GEER (Governor’s Emergency Education Relief) funding to the new “SAFE grant” scholarship program. At a time where South Carolina’s public schools are faced with unprecedented operational challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, these funds could be better used by ensuring our public schools have as many resources as possible to ensure a safe return to in-person instruction”
SC for Ed agrees saying,
“During an unprecedented pandemic, McMaster chose today to spend the majority of his discretionary CARES Act funds on private schools, an action that hurts public schools while doing little to help prospective lower-income private school students.”
And the South Carolina School Boards Association says in part,
“The Governor’s decision not to direct more than 65 percent of his emergency coronavirus funding to assist the most disadvantaged students, and instead give it to more advantaged students to stay in private schools is unfathomable.”
According to the Office of the Governor, about 5,000 grants will be funded to private school students.