July 24 2013
Vicki E. Alger
After years of trying to enact parental choice the South Carolina legislature enacted a special needs tax-credit scholarship program through its state budget. As the Heartland Institute’s Evelyn Stacey reports, passage involved “high drama,” passing by a single vote:
South Carolina has a new, temporary school choice law tucked within its recently-passed state budget. The bill, H.3710, authorizes nonprofits to offer scholarships to in-state students with special needs. Individuals and corporations that donate receive state tax credits in return. …
Lawmakers included the provision in the state budget after years of similar, independent bills failed to pass…The program’s tax credits are capped at $8 million. It allocates each student up to $10,000 or the cost of private tuition, whichever is less.
Given these caps, and a one-year expiration date, the program is highly limited in its current state, but lawmakers plan to make the program permanent.
As it stands, at least 800 special needs students could participate, but based on Florida’s experience with its McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities, it’s likely that more children will benefit in the future.
What we know from more than 15 years’ experience with tax-credit scholarship programs nationwide is that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared them constitutional, they ease the burden on state and school budgets, and most important they expand option s for students who desperately need them.
It’s also worth noting that every child has special educational needs in one way or another, and all parents deserve the freedom to pick the schools they believe are best.