South Carolina just joined the growing ranks of states making public money portable to help parents and students have more choices in K-12 education.
On Thursday, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed a bill that will give low- and middle- income students a $6,000 scholarship to fund education expenses, reported Fox News.
“South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster just signed a bill to fund students instead of systems,” said Corey DeAngelis, senior fellow at the American Federation for Children, via Twitter.
The program will serve about 5,000 students at first, expanding to 15,000 students per year by the third year of the program.
In year three, any household with a combined annual income of less than $100,000 will be eligible to participate, reports the Jewish News Syndicate.
Critics have claimed the program will drain money from public schools, but in fact, the program will only allow 2% of the public school student population to participate because of budget constraints, according to local WLTX News 19.
“Having folks compete for students and letting parents vote with their feet on where they want their children to be educated is not a bad thing,” said state House Education Committee Chairwoman Shannon Erickson, a Republican, who sponsored the bill, according to TheState.com “It will not disintegrate the public school system.”
McMaster said that in addition to creating happy, well-adjusted citizens, the new law will help power economic growth for the state.
“Among the benefits are not just preparing our people to live happy, strong, healthy, meaningful lives – the impact on our economic growth will be enormous,” McMaster said, according to Fox News.
“Everything in this new law works and will work well – work extremely well – for the people of South Carolina,” he added. “This goes right to the heart of that educational strength.”
The New York Times reported last month that over a dozen states now have some sort of publicly-funded school choice program.
The rush of states to give parents and students more options comes amid a crisis in K-12 education made more apparent by the pandemic.
“For U.S. history, I would say that I was also very, very concerned, because it’s a decline that started in 2014 long before we even thought about Covid,” NCES Commissioner Peggy Carr told reporters, according to Politico.
The NCES administers tests in math, reading, history and civics nationwide known as the Nation’s Report Card, which is the official measurement of student achievement.
In North Carolina, conservative education applauded the new law.
“Gov. McMaster and South Carolina lawmakers deserve tremendous credit for this major step toward empowering all families to choose the learning environments that align with their values and work best for their kids,” Jonathan Butcher, a senior research fellow at the Center for Education Policy at The Heritage Foundation, and Jason Bedrick, a research fellow at the center, said in a joint statement provided to Fox News.
“South Carolina has joined the growing list of states that are putting students and families first.”