Governor Henry McMaster signed a bill Thursday which authorizes permanent funding for a program that helps parents of children with special needs pay for private school tuition.
Previously, the Exceptional SC Fund was included in the state budget via annual proviso votes. The bill signed by McMaster would make the Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children’s Education Fund permanent.
“Every school year, (parents) had to wonder will the legislature pass the proviso in the budget so there was money available?” Exceptional SC Executive Director Chad Connelly said. “This actually isn’t government money. This is taxpayers directing their state income tax dollars to a scholarship fund for special needs kids.
The program allows taxpayers in South Carolina to donate up to 60 percent of their liability to the program and write off the amount as a tax credit. The fund then uses the donations to fund special needs scholarships. The bill caps the limit at $2 million and prevents tax filers from contributing once that limit is reached.
Before signing the bill, McMaster said there was not one legislator who voted against it.
“It’s not government doing something for the people but allowing the people to do something for themselves,” he said. “It promotes love. It promotes education. It promotes generosity. It promotes all the good things that we read about in the ‘Good Book.’ And what this law does is actually open the floodgates of love and potential and possibility and education to the children of South Carolina.”
Connelly said finding the most effective program for their kids with special needs and disabilities can be difficult for parents.
“It’s just gut-wrenching to hear what these parents went through because their kids, it’s not that they can’t learn, it’s that they learn differently,” he said. “Ans so when they find the school that teaches to that dyslexia need or autism need or whatever the challenge is, it’s a real big deal and there’s not a dry eye in the place when they start telling their stories.”
The law limits scholarships to $11,000 or the cost of tuition, whichever is less. It also puts safeguards in place to prevent taxpayers from paying the amount to benefit their own child.
“Every kid deserves an opportunity,” he said.