South Carolina House approves resolution to repeal Blaine Amendment, which would smooth the road for school choice

South Carolina’s House of Representatives voted in favor of a measure to repeal the state’s Blaine Amendment, which prohibits state funds from benefitting religious or private educational institutions.

The amendment’s namesake, James G. Blaine, was a former U.S. Congressman and Secretary of State who unsuccessfully attempted to amend the U.S. Constitution in order deprive private, Catholic schools of government funding. However, the amendment did make it into 37 state constitutions.

“No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution,” South Carolina’s version reads.

Tuesday the House voted 83-27 on H 3591, the resolution to repeal the amendment. The measure now heads to the Senate which must approve with a two-thirds majority before it would finally be decided upon by the voters. 

If South Carolina did blot out its Blaine Amendment, it would be just the second state to do so since Louisiana voters repealed theirs in 1974.   

Blaine Amendments have been a common roadblock for school choice legislation, and even prevented South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster from using pandemic funds for private school vouchers.  

However, recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court have weakened the legal stranglehold of such amendments. 

For South Carolina, it may smooth the way for the bill to expand education savings accounts, recently passed by the Senate and sent to the House, should it become law.