A bipartisan group of seventeen senators has introduced school choice legislation in the South Carolina State Senate.
The bill primarily supports low-income students and children with special educational needs through privately funded scholarships. Modest tax deductions for families who homeschool their children or pay out of pocket for independent schools are also part of the plan.
“Parents have always had the most information and the best motivation to make decisions for their own children,” explained Senator Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), the legislation’s lead sponsor. “Freedom in education isn’t just academically effective and economically efficient; it’s also the right thing to do for families.”
Senator Grooms, working closely with Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, introduced the legislation (S.1325) today. House Bill 4894, the companion legislation, was voted out of that chamber’s Ways and Means Committee last Tuesday by a margin of two to one.
Senator Grooms conceded the proposal is modest compared to choice legislation he introduced last year, but reiterated his long standing belief that parental engagement is the most important part of education reform. “There are 15,000 low-income students in private schools in South Carolina,” explained Grooms. “Their parents are really sacrificing to keep their sons and daughters enrolled in the school they believe is best for that child. Those same parents pay over $8 million in state income taxes each year, but save the state $72 million in public school spending. There is a total disconnect here.”
Neighboring Georgia enacted a school choice program for students with special needs in 2007. The following year a program of privately funded, tax credit supported, student scholarships became law. North Carolina has also embraced school choice, initiating a program of tax credit funded scholarships for students with disabilities last year.
S.1325 Sponsors now include:
AIKEN – Senator Greg Ryberg
ANDERSON – Senator Kevin Bryant
BEAUFORT – Senator Tom Davis
BERKELEY – Senator Paul Campbell, Senator Chip Campsen and Senator Larry Grooms
CHARLESTON – Senator Chip Campsen, Senator Ray Cleary, Senator Robert Ford, Senator Larry Grooms, Senator Glenn McConnell and Senator Mike Rose
CHEROKEE- Senator Harvey Peeler
COLLETON – Senator Larry Grooms
DORCHESTER – Senator Larry Grooms and Senator Mike Rose
GEORGETOWN – Senator Ray Cleary
GREENVILLE – Senator Mike Fair, Senator Phillip Shoopman, Senator David Thomas, Senator Danny Verdin
HORRY – Senator Ray Cleary
LANCASTER – Senator Greg Gregory
LAURENS – Senator Danny Verdin
SPARTANBURG – Senator Lee Bright and Senator Harvey Peeler
UNION – Senator Harvey Peeler
YORK – Senator Greg Gregory and Senator Harvey Peeler