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SC Supreme Court rules against McMaster on private school grant program

McMaster's office said he will formally ask the court to reconsider the case and that no other plans have been made for the money at this time.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Governor Henry McMaster plans to ask the SC Supreme Court to reconsider their ruling against his proposal to use federal coronavirus relief funding for a private school grant program.

RELATED: SC Supreme Court rules governor can't use public money for private schools

After a unanimous decision, The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the governor cannot use public money to help parents cover private school tuition.

McMaster announced in July that he was pledging $32 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to help pay for students’ tuition at private schools. It’s called the SAFE Grants Program.  

It would have provided a one-time, needs-based grants of up to $6,500 that will help or subsidize the 2020-21 tuition for eligible students at participating private, parochial or independent schools in South Carolina. Approximately 5,000 grants were to be funded.

But just days after the announcement, a lawsuit was filed against him by the South Carolina Education Association and the Orangeburg County School District

Sherry East, a high school science teacher in Rock Hill and president of the South Carolina Education Association, said they are happy with the courts decision.

RELATED: $31.5 million to go to public charter schools in South Carolina, Spearman says

"You know, I have no problem if you want to send you child to a private school, but please just don't ask me to pay for it," East said.

Meanwhile Chris Angel, Head of School at Hammond, said he feels the only ones who lost in this ruling are the students.

"For us it wouldn't change the nature of how we spend money, but it would allow our families or more families access to a private education," Angel said. "And for me, nobody knows better than a family, what would be the best environment for their child and, so that's what I think is really unfortunate in this case. I thought Governor McMaster was trying to help certain families. We are all trying to deal with this pandemic in the best way possible and for me I really was hopeful that the money could be used to help families make some decisions to better educate their children."

The court's ruling said the program was unconstitutional because the public money would directly benefit the private schools. Angel said they will find ways to still support their families and students.

As for East, she has some ideas on other ways the money could be spent.

"There are many, many, many uses that he could do with the money if he wants to put it toward the school systems on how to keep schools safe, take a look a look at your poorest performing districts, how about broadband, there's plenty of ways to spend that money," East said.

The governor's office said since McMaster will formally ask the court to reconsider the case, no other plans have been made for the money at this time. 

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