South Carolina amendment would lift funding restrictions for private schools

South Carolina’s House of Representatives put forward a joint resolution proposing a constitutional amendment which would help open funding to private schools.

Led by House Speaker Rep. Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, the resolution proposed an amendment which would repeal Section 4, Article XI of the state constitution, which prohibits government aid going directly to private or religious educational institutions.

Section 4 found the spotlight in 2020 when the Supreme Court of South Carolina ruled Gov. Henry McMaster couldn’t use COVID-19 relief funds to give one-time grants to students attending private schools.

It was an issue again in December when McMaster was sued for earmarking $1.5 million of state funds for Christian learning centers.

Despite this resistance, McMaster continues to support school choice in various ways.

“Robus charter schools allow parents to choose the best educational opportunities for their children,” his website says. “We need more of them, and more transportation options to better facilitate school choice.”

He even declared Jan. 22-28 “South Carolina School Choice Week,” “recognizing that every child in South Carolina deserves access to an effective education, and encouraging parents to explore and identify the best learning option for their child.”

In addition to the constitutional amendment, the state lawmakers will consider school choice legislation.

One bill’s goal is to provide vouchers of $6,000 to 15,000 students annually within the next 3 years.  

“It’s a question of choice. It’s a private school option for children in poverty,” said Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Little River. “Wealthy people already have choice.”  

Recent polling reveals all political groups – Republican, Democrat and Independent – support school choice, although Republicans do so to a greater extent.