Education advocacy group disappointed by McMaster announcement on private school grants

Education advocacy group disappointed by McMaster announcement on private school grants
Gov. Henry McMaster announced Monday morning a new program that will provide scholarships or one-time grants to help families subsidize tuition for the state's participating private, parochial or independent schools in the state. (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The teachers group SC For Ed released a statement Monday about Gov. Henry McMaster’s plan to use $32 million in CARES Act funding to help families afford private school tuition.

McMaster introduced the SAFE Grants program in Greenville Monday morning.

“We were and are disappointed in McMaster’s decision to to call for a public school face-to-face option,” a statement on the group’s Facebook page states. “We are further disappointed by his decision today to commit to using CARES Act funds, which could go to helping public school districts safely prepare for face-to-face instruction in the very schools he purports to want opened, to instead subsidize private schools (with $32 million of the governor’s $48 million in CARES funds going to private schools).”

The group argues private schools already have access, according to federal Department of Education guidelines, to CARES funds, “which they can demand directly from districts with Title I schools.” As private businesses, the schools also have access to additional federal CARES funds unavailable to public schools, the group says.

“Rather than help schools reopen, McMaster has left them with yet another unfunded mandate, one he was in a unique position to help fund,” the statement reads.

The group cited the tuition and fees for a high school student at Hampton Park Christian School, where McMaster made his announcement, as being almost $9,000 per year, adding that “any pretense of trying to help poor families have access to education opportunities seems insincere.”

“This is instead a sneaky way of creating subsidies for private education when the legislature has been unable to pass voucher legislation,” the statement reads.

SC For Ed says that it will never support public funds going to private schools.

Our thoughts on Governor McMaster’s presser to use Covid-19 CARES Act money meant for public schools recovery for private school vouchers instead.

Posted by SC for Ed on Monday, July 20, 2020

Two state senators criticize McMaster’s SAFE Grants program

Two Democratic state senators issued a joint statement Monday afternoon on McMaster’s SAFE Grants program. Sen. Thomas McElveen, of Sumter; and Sen. Karl Allen, of Greenville, released the following statement:

Just a week after he announced that he expects our public school teachers to put their health and safety on the line to return to classrooms this fall, Governor McMaster has turned around and stripped away vital funding that they need to do their jobs.

The hard-earned tax dollars that were meant for our public schools should never be directed anywhere else, no less in the midst of a public health crisis that already has our districts pinching pennies to keep children, teachers, and staff safe. As leaders in this moment, we should be doing everything in our power to get public schools the resources they desperately need, not taking their funding away.

South Carolina has shamefully underfunded our public schools for decades— writing checks to private institutions should be the least of the Governor’s worries when it comes to education right now. It is overwhelmingly disappointing to see him play politics with our children’s education and the safety of South Carolinians.

McMaster announced last week he was instructing all of the state’s school districts to give parents the option of five-day face-to-face learning as well as a virtual option. He said he instructed state Education Superintendent Molly Spearman not to approve a district’s falls plan if it did not provide for in-person instruction.

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