The bill allows families to apply for school vouchers through the Education Scholarship Trust Fund program. The vouchers are worth $6,000 for each child which can be applied to education-related expenses such as tutoring, standardized tests, online schooling costs, private school tuition, textbooks and more.
The program will roll out slowly, with the expected cost of $90 million once the program is completely rolled out. For the 2024-2025 school year, households that do not make more than twice the federal poverty, or about $60,000 or less, will be allowed to apply for the program. For the 2024-2025 school year, the participant amount is capped at 5,000. By the 2026-2027 school year, families making four times the poverty level, or about $120,000 or less, will be allowed to apply for the program. Increasing for the 2026-2027 school year to 15,000, which is about 2% of the school-age children in South Carolina. By 2026, two thirds of all families in South Carolina will be eligible to apply.
According to the bill, only students who are enrolling in kindergarten or who attend a public school the year prior are eligible. If a student remains eligible, any unused funds roll over to the following year.
In anticipation of the bill’s passage, McMaster included $25 million in his executive budget for education scholarship accounts.
Supporters say the bill does not violate the South Carolina constitution because the money does not go directly to private schools but instead into education savings accounts.
So far in 2023, South Carolina, Utah, Florida, Iowa and Arkansas have enacted or expanded school choice laws.
Since 2004, South Carolina has been trying to get a school voucher bill passed with Republican Sen. Larry Grooms at the head of the effort.
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