School vouchers will soon be available in South Carolina after Gov. Henry McMaster signed a Republican-backed school choice bill into law Thursday.
“This is a huge step forward for our state, and I think we’re going to find tremendous success and happiness through it,” said McMaster, also a Republican, signing the bill.
The law allows low- and middle-income families in the Palmetto State to apply for a $6,000 voucher for each child towards education-related expenses through the Education Scholarship Trust Fund program.
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“The benefits will not just include preparing our people for happy, strong, healthy and meaningful lives – the impact on our economic growth will be tremendous,” said McMaster. He noted that the specific ideas in the legislation came from other states.
“Everything in this new law is working and will work well — work very well — for the people of South Carolina,” he added. “That gets to the heart of this educational strength.”
Other speakers at the press conference noted that coupon efforts in South Carolina have been ongoing since 2004.
The vouchers can be spent on private school tuition, tutoring, online training expenses, standardized tests, textbooks and more.
The law will be phased in, beginning with allowing households not exceeding twice the federal poverty line to be eligible to apply for the 2024-2025 school year, and then expanding in the 2026-2027 school year to include families exceeding four times the reach the poverty line. In addition, enrollment is capped at 5,000 for the 2024-2025 school year, gradually increasing to 15,000 for the 2026-2027 school year.
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By law, students are only eligible if they are entering kindergarten or have attended a public school the year before. Unused funds are carried over to the following school year if the student remains eligible under the legislation.
By 2026, two-thirds of South Carolina families will be able to apply for the vouchers news 19. The local outlet also notes that the 15,000 student cap for the program would allow only about 2% of the state’s public school population to participate.
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“Thanks to this new law, more children in South Carolina will now have the chance to have quality learning opportunities,” Jonathan Butcher, senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Center for Education Policy, and Jason Bedrick, research fellow at the center, said in a joint Statement provided to Fox News.
“Reg. McMaster and South Carolina legislators deserve great credit for taking this important step in empowering all families to choose the learning environments that align with their values and work best for their children,” 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, after Florida, Arkansas, Utah and Iowa, to enact new or expanded school-choice-friendly laws this year.
Anticipating passage of the bill, McMaster included $25 million in its educational grant budget.
“These funds will allow lower-income parents to choose the type of educational environment and instruction that best suits their child’s unique needs,” McMaster said during his 2023 address to the state.
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The cost of the program is expected to be $90 million once it is fully implemented, according to the South Carolina Internal Revenue Service.
“This is an exciting, hopeful time for South Carolina students and their parents and guardians,” added Butcher and Bedrick.
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