$32M of SC’s CARES Act funds to go to SAFE grants for private school students’ tuition

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GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – Gov. Henry McMaster announced Monday the creation of the Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) Grants during a news conference at Hampton Park Christian School.

According to the release, the one-time, needs-based grants of up to $6,500 will reportedly help or subsidize the 2020-21 tuition for eligible students attending private, parochial or independent schools in the state.

Around 5,000 grants will be funded, and according to the release they are being funded through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

According to the release, each state received an allocation for a Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, and South Carolina’s share of the funds was $48 million — $32 million will be used to fund SAFE Grants.

The governor also recently invested $2.4 million to the state’s eight historically black colleges and universities. Read the news release here.

According to the release, a student must be from a household with an adjust gross income of 300% or less of the federal poverty level.

“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.”

“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 said.

However, following the press conference, not everyone was happy with McMaster’s decision on where to direct the funds. In a released statement, the Palmetto State Teachers Association expressed their disappointment.

“The Palmetto State Teachers Association is disappointed in Governor McMaster’s decision to direct $32 million in federal GEER (Governor’s Emergency Education Relief) funding to the new “SAFE grant” scholarship program,” The release said. “At a time where South Carolina’s public schools are faced with unprecedented operational challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, these funds could be better used by ensuring our public schools have as many resources as possible to ensure a safe return to in-person instruction when public health conditions make it possible to do so.”

The association said they strongly believe in public school choice, however “today’s action by the Governor will allow federal public dollars to flow to independent schools that are not subject to public accountability standards. These schools are also not accessible to all South Carolina students, as they can deny admission to students based on criteria such as a student’s religion, sexual orientation, or disability status.”

The association continued by saying, “the federal tax dollars used for the SAFE grant program are paid by all South Carolinians, meaning those dollars should only be used for schools that are open to all of our students.”

SC for Ed, also released a statement which you can view below.

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