GREENVILLE, S.C. (WCSC) - 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.
Approximately 5,000 grants will be funded through the Safe Access to Flexible Education Grants.
“Education is the most important thing we do in South Carolina, or anywhere else. If we can’t educate the children and educated well, then we failed in our duty to the state, the country, the next generation,” he said. “During this pandemic, with so much uncertainty and anxiety facing families, a child’s displacement from the school they love and thrive at could have devastating consequences to their learning and emotional progress.”
McMaster announced the SAFE Grants program at Hampton Park Christian School in Greenville.
“Private schools in our state provide an essential education to over 50,000 children,” McMaster said. “They provide parents the ability to choose the type of education environment and instruction they feel best suits their child’s unique needs. And a large number of these students come from working or low-income families, who, in the best economy, are barely able to scrimp and scrape together just enough money to pay their child’s tuition.”
The grants, of up to $6,500, will be needs-based, he said. To be eligible for SAFE Grants, a student must be from a household with an adjusted gross income of 300% or less of the federal poverty level. The program is “wide open,” available for any students who wish to apply, McMaster said.
“What it does is, it addresses the questions and the aspirations of the legislators and leaders here, education leaders, have had for years to see to our children, wherever they go to school, they can go where they want to go and get the best education possible,” McMaster said. “We want all the children in South Carolina, wherever they live, whatever their circumstances, to be able to get the best education in the United States. That’s our goal. And I think this is one step in that direction.”
Modeled on successful grant and scholarship programs serving thousands of students in Florida, Arizona and North Carolina, SAFE grants will provide critical support for working, low-income families impacted financially by the pandemic, Governor’s Office spokesman Brian Symmes said.
The governor reiterated that he has instructed all of the state’s school districts to give parents the option of five-day face-to-face instruction in the fall.
South Carolina’s share of GEER funds was $48 million, $32 million of which will fund SAFE Grants.
“We have some other obligations for that money as well, but $32 million is a lot of money and we think it’ll make a big difference,” he said.
The state will hire a professional manager to oversee that the scholarships are distributed properly.
Click here to apply for the SAFE Grants Program.
Earlier this month, McMaster announced the allocation of $2.4 million from the GEER Fund to the state’s eight historically black colleges and universities. Based on a recommendation from AccelerateSC, the investment is meant to help the schools upgrade hardware and purchase software, eLearning resources and electronic textbooks to support online instruction.
GEER funds are federal funds awarded to each governor through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act signed into law by President Trump on March 27. A governor may allocate GEER funds to school districts and institutions of higher education “most significantly impacted by coronavirus” and to education-related entities that the governor deems essential.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.