Former South Carolina GOP Chairman Chad Connelly has connections throughout the state. And leaders the Exceptional SC scholarship program hope Connelly can use those connections to get legislative support for the program.
Exceptional SC announced Thursday Connelly as its new executive director. But Connelly said he doesn’t need to influence state lawmakers to support the program. The stories from the kids, parents and donors are powerful enough.
“I’m going to let the people who donate to the program and the parents, let them do the pushing, the lobbying if you will. Let them talk to the legislators,” he said.
The legislature established Exceptional SC to allow donors to provide scholarships for students who require special education attend independent schools that offer specialized programs. However, the fund was capped at $11 million per year. Several bills are currently under consideration that would expand the fund to $25 million. A House version currently is under Ways and Means Committee consideration.
Connelly said his first mission is to get the word out about the program, to encourage donors and parents to get involved.
“I think there are stories that ought to be heard and anybody that doesn’t want to take care of special needs kids — wow,” he said. “These kids are brilliant. They just learn a little differently.”
Connelly said he admires the parents who struggle to find the right educational fit for their kids.
“I don’t know how they do it. I don’t know how five parents could do it with some of the challenges, so getting them the help of an expert, who does this every day.”
The goal is to make the program available to every child in South Carolina who needs specialized education. 114 schools in South Carolina offer some form of specialized education, but 20 counties have no schools that offer eligible programs at all.
“This is all about special needs kids,” he said. “This is all about telling the story and if we get them what they need, it unlocks the door to a whole different future for them.”