COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Senators passed a bill Thursday that would help families pay for private school through tax-credit-funded scholarships.
It comes one month after the chamber passed a separate voucher bill, meaning there could be two different ways for families to use taxpayer dollars to leave public schools.
“It's a big win for children who are trapped in underperforming schools," said Sen. Shane Massey (R-Edgefield).
The proposal would create scholarship funding organizations that would solicit donations from large corporations that would benefit from a one-to-one tax write-off, costing the state up to $55 million annually.
“The premise here is parents are going to exercise choice and be in a position to decide what’s best for their child," said Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort).
Scholarships would range from $1,400 to nearly $10,000 per student. The number of students given scholarships depends on the number of donations.
Eligible students would be broken into four categories: Children with exceptional and special needs; those who are economically disadvantaged (families that are at 200 percent of poverty or less on the federal poverty index); homeschoolers; and general scholarship students.
“If I’m gonna put 1,000 dollars into a scholarship funding organization, I’m gonna take a 1,000 dollar tax credit against my state income tax, it washes out. I’m no better or worse off before doing that," said Sponsor Sen. Tom Davis (R-Beaufort).
Last month senators passed a bill that would provide $6,000 in scholarships to low and middle-income students for private school tuition. Up to 15,000 students would be eligible by the program's third year, costing the state up to $90 million annually.
The possibility of both bills becoming laws has concerned Democrats like Sen. Mike Fanning (D-Fairfield).
“We can’t double down on private education that benefits 5% of the population and do nothing for the 95% of children left in the public schools," said
“You have a small number of people using those scholarship opportunities, but those who are using them it’s making a significant difference for them," said Massey.
The House is expected to debate the Senate's ESA bill in the coming weeks.
Last month the House passed a resolution asking voters in 2024 whether the ban against public dollars to private schools should be repealed.