Thursday, March 29, 2012

BREAKING NEWS: School Choice Legislation Passes the South Carolina House

This time last year, many South Carolina parents felt defeated after the most promising piece of school choice legislation in decades failed, by a single vote, to pass. While frustrated, these parents never gave up on the prospect of a better future for their children and, over the past few months, have written letters, held rallies, and made hundreds of calls to legislators.

Yesterday, their voices were finally, and triumphantly, heard. The South Carolina House of Representatives passed a sizeable school choice package yesterday evening by a vote of 65-49. The legislation has three components that would offer parents in the Palmetto State more educational options for their children: a tax-deduction for schooling expenses, a tax-credit scholarship program for low-income families, and a tax-credit scholarship program for students with special needs.

These three programs are a start to what could be a complete reform on the state’s education system. It’s a breath of fresh air for many parents in the state, who after years of reports listing South Carolina as one of the worst states in the nation for education, welcome such reforms.

The tax-deduction program will offer parents the opportunity to move their children from one school to another without penalty and with a $1,000 state income tax deduction. This is particularly needed after a 2011 report found that 76 percent of South Carolina schools failed to make adequate yearly progress in the 2010-2011 school year.  This program will also offer tax deductions to parents who home school their children, as well as parents who have children enrolled in an independent or non-public school.

The tax-credit scholarship program for low-income children will provide scholarships of up to $5,000 to children who qualify for federal free and reduced-price lunches or who are Medicaid eligible. This program will allow individuals or corporations to claim a 60 percent state tax credit for contributions to approved Scholarship Granting Organizations.

The third component, the tax credit scholarship program for children with special needs, will provide up to $10,000 in scholarship funding to students with significant disabilities whose needs have not been met by the services provided by their local public school district.

These reforms come at a time when many other states around the country are pushing aggressive legislation to improve education. We applaud the 65 members of the South Carolina House who voted for this bill and we’ll keep an eye on the Senate for more updates on this important piece of school choice legislation. 

- American Federation for Children | Alliance for School Choice, RMS

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