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SAFE grants launched to cover private school tuition

Staff Report //July 20, 2020//

SAFE grants launched to cover private school tuition

Staff Report //July 20, 2020//

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Gov. Henry McMaster presented a need-based tuition grant fund at Hampton Park Christian School this morning as part of an effort to help private, parochial or independent school students pay for tuition, according to a news release. The fund is expected to support 5,000 grants across the state, each worth up to $6,500.

The Safe Access to Flexible Education grants, financed by the state’s $48 million Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund allocations from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, will be extended to students from homes with an adjusted gross income of 300% or less of the federal poverty level. About $32 million out of the total relief fund pool was allocated for the SAFE grants.

“Private schools in our state provide an essential education to over 50,000 children,” McMaster said in the news release. “They provide parents the ability to choose the type of education environment and instruction they feel best suits their child’s unique needs. And a large number of these students come from working or low-income families who — in the best economy — are barely able to scrimp and scrape together just enough money to pay their child’s tuition.”

The program is modeled on similar scholarship programs in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina and follows July 9’s $2.4 million relief fund investment in South Carolina’s eight historically Black colleges: S.C. State University, Denmark Technical College, Allen University, Benedict College, Claflin University, Clinton College, Morris College and Voorhees College.

“Limiting the number of educational opportunities made available to our children is a complete disservice, but providing the opportunity of choice is common sense,” Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, who represents the 3rd District, said in the release. “The SAFE Grants program will give parents the chance to choose a learning environment that best fits their child’s needs and allow them to do so at an affordable cost. School choice is especially vital as South Carolina is moving to reopen schools this fall. Parents should always feel empowered to choose a school that best fits their child’s individual needs, especially in the midst of a pandemic.”

S.C. House Democrats condemned the grants program, which they called a “private school voucher plan.”

Rep. J.A. Moore, D-Hanahan, said in a statement, “In the midst of a pandemic that has put a financial strain on public schools and in a state with an already minimally adequate education system, Gov. McMaster has decided to subsidize private schools with taxpayer dollars. Unacceptable.”