School vouchers will soon be available in South Carolina after Governor Henry McMaster signed a Republican-backed school choice bill into law on Thursday.
“This is a great step forward for our state and I think we’re going to find tremendous success and happiness out of it,” McMaster, also a Republican, said during the signing of the bill.
The law gives low- and middle-income families in Palmetto State the ability to apply for a $6,000 voucher for each child for education-related expenses through the Education Scholarship Trust Fund program.
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“Among the benefits is not just preparing our people to live happy, strong, healthy and meaningful lives – the impact on our economic growth will be enormous,” McMaster said. He noted that the specific ideas in the legislation came from other states.
“Everything about this new law works and will work well – will work extremely well – for the people of South Carolina,” he added. “It goes right to the heart of this educational force.”
Other speakers at the press conference noted that the push for vouchers in South Carolina has been going on since 2004.
Vouchers can be spent on private school tuition, tutoring, online tuition, standardized tests, textbooks and more.
The law will be rolled out gradually, starting by allowing households that do not exceed twice the federal poverty level to apply for the 2024-2025 school year, then expanding in the 2026-2027 school year to families making four times the poverty line. In addition, the participant amount is capped at 5,000 for the 2024-2025 school year and gradually increases to 15,000 for the 2026-2027 school year.
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Students are only eligible if they are entering kindergarten or attended public school the previous year, as required by law. Unused funds will be carried over to the next school year if the student remains eligible, as required by law.
Two-thirds of South Carolina families will be able to apply for the vouchers by 2026, according to News 19. The local outlet also notes that the program’s 15,000 student cap would only allow about 2% of the state’s public school population to participate.
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“More children in South Carolina will now have the opportunity to access high-quality learning options, thanks to this new law,” Jonathan Butcher, senior fellow at the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, and Jason Bedrick, a researcher at the center, said in a joint statement provided to Fox News.
“Governor. McMaster and South Carolina lawmakers deserve huge credit for this major step toward empowering all families to choose the learning environments that align with their values and work best for their children,” said they added, “South Carolina has joined the growing list of states that are putting students and families first.”
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South Carolina is the fifth state to pass new legislation or expand pro-school choice legislation this year, joining Florida, Arkansas, Utah and Iowa.
McMaster preempted the bill’s passage and included $25 million in its executive budget for scholarship accounts.
“These funds will allow low-income parents to choose the type of educational and educational environment that best suits their child’s unique needs,” McMaster said during his 2023 State of the State address. .
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The cost of the program is expected to be $90 million after full rollout, according to the South Carolina Office of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs.
“This is an exciting and hopeful time for South Carolina students and their parents and guardians,” Butcher and Bedrick added.
Click here to learn more about school choice.
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