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South Carolina House approves measure to expand education scholarships

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(The Center Square) — The South Carolina House of Representatives signed off on a measure to expand the Education Scholarship Trust Fund.

Lawmakers voted 69-32 in favor of H.5164 on its second reading.

The measure would expand a program that allows parents of eligible K-12 students to use state trust funds for education for State Department of Education-approved providers. All Democrats present opposed the bill.

“We will keep fighting to protect public education,” South Carolina House Democrats said in a post to X, formerly Twitter.

“The systematic destruction of public education — decades in the making,” state Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, said in a post to X. “Private school vouchers started as a way to stop integration. If we pass this bill, it will deepen the divisions in SC. I’m not against private schools, but public money should stay in public schools.”

Nearly 8,000 students from every county in the state applied for 5,000 2024-25 ESTF scholarships, each worth $6,000. The measure would increase the number of scholarships to 15,000 at the cost of nearly $105.9 million in the 2026-27 school year and unlimited starting in the 2027-28 school year, depending on funding.

In a statement, Palmetto Promise Institute President Wendy Damron called the move “a bold response to South Carolinians’ overwhelming demand for universal school choice.”

On Tuesday, “a new poll found that 75% of South Carolina voters support the adoption of universal education savings accounts (ESAs),” Damron said. “We are proud to see the Palmetto State join 11 other states that have a universal choice program.”

Damron referenced a poll of 500 registered voters conducted by Meeting Street Insights on behalf of the yes. every kid. foundation, two-thirds (67%) of South Carolina voters support education savings accounts, with 38% strongly supporting them. Three-quarters (75%) said ESAs should be available to all families regardless of income level.

“Education savings accounts are clearly a winning issue in South Carolina,” yes. every kid. foundation Vice President of Strategy Matt Frendewey said in a statement. “Families of all backgrounds want options when it comes to their children’s education. ESAs provide the flexibility and freedom necessary for parents to tailor their child’s learning experience according to their unique needs.”