(The Center Square) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed a measure to create scholarships for select elementary and secondary students aimed at covering education expenses so they can attend the school of their choice.
Under S.39, the Educational Scholarship Trust Fund, eligible students — state residents with “a statement of Medicaid eligibility” — can receive scholarships of up to $6,000. They can use the money to cover instructional materials, tutoring, computer hardware, assessments, transportation, tuition and fees.
According to lawmakers, the scholarships will be funded directly from the state budget, and lawmakers said they did not take any money from public school funds to pay for the program.
According to a fiscal estimate from the South Carolina Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office, the measure could require $30 million for up to 5,000 scholarships in the 2024-25 school year. That would increase to $60 million for 10,000 scholarships in the 2025-26 school year and $90 million for 15,000 scholarships in 2026-27 and subsequent years.
The S.C. Department of Education indicated the bill could increase the agency’s expenses by more than $3 million in fiscal 2024-25 for additional personnel and program requirements.
“Education is not one-size-fits-all,” state House Majority Leader Davey Hiott, R-Pickens, said in a statement when the House passed the bill. “Many parents feel trapped in their current schools, or that their children’s needs aren’t being met, and so it is imperative that we empower them with choices that are conducive to their [children’s] success.”
The measure might be the first step in education reform. According to House Republicans, the legislation “lays the groundwork for broader legislation that will fully empower South Carolina parents in making educational choices for their children.”