School Choice Is Working

SO WHY NOT EXPAND IT? By FITSNEWS || Earlier this week, more than a dozen grants were issued to exceptional needs students attending Saint Anne’s, a faith-based school in York County.  It’s the latest round of scholarships awarded through the Educational Credits for Exceptional Needs (ECENC) program, South Carolina’s popular…


By FITSNEWS || Earlier this week, more than a dozen grants were issued to exceptional needs students attending Saint Anne’s, a faith-based school in York County.  It’s the latest round of scholarships awarded through the Educational Credits for Exceptional Needs (ECENC) program, South Carolina’s popular – but pitifully narrow- parental choice proviso.

We’ve written about this program in the past … and are especially pleased to see S.C. Sen. Wes Hayes getting involved.  This website has been exceedingly critical of Hayes in the past, but he’s not only been instrumental in moving this legislation forward – he’s rolled up his sleeves and helped with the policy minutia that has helped made it a success.

Through the ECENC, sole-purpose charities award grants to exceptional needs students, allowing them to attend participating specialized private schools of their parents’ choice.  The program served more than 500 students in the second semester of last school year alone.  It now includes over eighty credentialed private schools and five scholarship funding organizations (SFOs).  The SFOs and schools are profiled in depth at, the ECENC’s de facto homepage and clearinghouse.

The grants for students at Saint Anne’s were provided by the Saint Thomas Aquinas SFO, the scholarship provider affiliated with the Catholic Church in the Palmetto State.  Thomas Aquinas, and “Advance Carolina,” associated with the Christian Schools Association, have already earned reputations for disclosure and transparency far beyond the rigid legal standards set forth in the proviso.  Both are signatories of the “Access Opportunity Best Practices Pledge,” a commitment to never award scholarships to donors’ children; to publicize details of their scholarship awarding process and criteria; and to use a double-blind process for issuing grants.  Two other, newer SFOs (DESK and the Corporate Coalition for Community Service) has also committed to pledge.

A pair of forthcoming reports, one by regulators at the Education Oversight Committee (EOC), another by Access Opportunity, will offer details of how the nascent program is working.  From January to July, ECENC grants supported over 500 students with disabilities at 50 different schools across the state.

Funding came from scores of individual and corporate taxpayers, whose donations earned them dollar-for-dollar credits within a 60 percent liability limit and a first come first served $8 million statewide cap.

Forty percent of these ECENC students struggle with so-called “Specific Learning Disabilities,” a category of special needs that includes perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia.  A fifth are challenged by autism spectrum disorders and a third have significant speech and/or language impairment.  Scholarships have also been awarded to students with Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, orthopedic impairments as well as those who are legally blind.  Nearly two-thirds have siblings now enrolled in public schools, one of many indicators parents in the state can – and do – make child specific decisions about enrollment and instruction.

The ECENC is working.  Demand for both scholarships and the tax credits that fund them will outpace supply this year. More schools are signing up and donors have very marked choice among SFOs.  Not only are parents empowered to make decisions for their own children, but some of the most expensive and time consuming to educate students to serve are leaving traditional public schools, where (thanks to anachronistic funding laws that are program-, not student-, based) resources remain for other students.

This begs the question why so many other students, particularly low-income children and those most at risk of dropping out, can’t be served through the same tax credit mechanism?

There is a rising tide of support for parental choice … and growing public acknowledgment that dumping more money into the state’s failed government-run system is not the answer.

Let’s hope state lawmakers respond to those realities with a major expansion of choice when they return to Columbia, S.C. in 2015.

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Jackie Chiles October 8, 2014 at 5:45 pm

NPR had an interesting story on charter schools working in New Orleans after Katrina. I think nearly every school there is a privately run school now.

Tom October 8, 2014 at 7:10 pm

Charter Schools are public schools. In NO Admission is by lottery. You can’t buy you way into a school over someone else. This is nothing like the rich people should have the best schools policy proposed by the SC school choice crowd.
If you want to require all private school to do admittance on an anonymous lottery basis I might agree your point is relevant to SC.

9" October 8, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Pay up,or shut up.

Duh! October 8, 2014 at 5:52 pm

Remarkable and full of common sense. South Carolina is only about 15 years behind the power curve here. Good work!

Frank Lee Morals October 8, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Yep.Great work indeed and thanks to Fits for posting this.

sDF October 8, 2014 at 5:54 pm

If it lets you choose a school in another state, then yes it would be working.

ThreePalms October 8, 2014 at 6:12 pm

I might be more supportive of a deduction for these charitable donations rather than a tax credit. Are there other charitable donations that our General Assembly have deemed worthy of a tax credit? Please list some.

Ron October 8, 2014 at 7:00 pm

None. This is just a way to funnel parents money to private schools at the taxpayer expense. Even the organizations that pledge not to give money to the children of donors have loop hole. Parent A contributes to Charity B. Parent B contributes to charity A. Charity A gives money to child of Parent B and Charity B gives money to child of Parent A.
Also, what does it mean School Choice is working?. How so?. What evidence is there the children who received these scholarships would not be in private school if they had not received them. There is not even a requirement that both parents work.
Its a scam, but a miniscule one compared to the ultimate goal of the state paying all private school tuition.

truthmonger October 8, 2014 at 11:48 pm

More to the point, children whose parents will support and push their children to succeed provide an environment where that child WILL succeed regardless of public or private school status. Went to both public schools and parochial school. I was successful in both. Parental involvement was the reason.

MashPotato October 9, 2014 at 7:43 am

Parents of private school kids pay taxes that go to public schools, so what are you really whining about? Think about this- taxpayers who don’t have kids are paying for public schools! If that’s not a scam, nothing is.

Dave Chappelle October 9, 2014 at 9:18 am

“If that’s not a scam, nothing is.”

I respectfully disagree. While this may not apply to every single community, the quality of schools directly and heavily influences the value of surrounding property.

Therefore, the general rule (obviously, there are exceptions) is that poor schools result in poor or declining property values.

Tazmaniac October 9, 2014 at 10:07 am

That theory is valid, but in execution it is obviously not working just in the amount of inadequate graduates that are being cranked out. So there is room and validity for childless people to complain. Also, people who value their children enough to educate them at home additionally beyond public school teaching tend to value and take care of their property. In Florida, the Seniors will skin you alive in the middle of a Bob Evans for saying what you did.

Dave Chappelle October 9, 2014 at 11:56 am

All very good points. Again, it is a general rule. While the general rule may not entirely follow “the script,” it is hardly a “scam” as was suggested.

A “Ponzi scheme” is a scam (e.g. Social Security).

Nah October 9, 2014 at 10:15 am

“Therefore, the general rule (obviously, there are exceptions) is that poor schools result in poor or declining property values.”

…which has nothing to do with taking money from people to educate other people’s kids. Your assumption is that doing this is required for good schools.

Dave Chappelle October 9, 2014 at 11:51 am


“…which has nothing to do with taking money from people to educate other people’s kids.”

Huh? Read the whole conversation. MashPotato claimed that it is a scam to tax citizens for the purpose of education (in part) when these particular citizens do not have children (essentially are not directly benefiting from the education).

My response was that this is not a scam per se because there are other intangible benefits to having a quality education system (albeit this assumes that tax dollars equate to improved education).

“Your assumption is that doing this is required for good schools.”

Again, read the whole conversation. I specifically noted that this is a general rule. Obviously, there are exceptions. Tazmaniac was kind enough to highlight the obvious exception found in “retirement resort” property in Florida. I’m sure there are many others.

The bottom line is that taxing (for education) only those that directly send their kid’s to a particular public school heavily seems unfair when many additional benefits are gained as a direct result of the school, and its quality.

If a husband and wife are employed by a school (say, as teachers) yet are unable to have children, or choose not to, is it unfair to say they are benefiting from the presence of this school? If a school district’s high quality rating (i.e. Lexington District 1) heavily influences the desirability for relocation to that area–thus, positively impacting the local economy, is it unfair to tax those that do not send their children to this school?

I assume you could make the argument that only tractor-trailer drivers (or their owners) should pay a gasoline tax since a single axle on a fully loaded truck does more damage than approximately 10,000 passenger cars.

Ron October 9, 2014 at 7:17 pm

To assure all children access to quality education public schools are necessary. Private Schools select students based on money and connections. They are not available to all children. The state guarantees everyone an education, as well it should, and the quality of your education should not be determined by your parent’s wealth.

Smirks October 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

Parents of private school kids pay taxes that go to public schools

That’s because parents of private school kids can, at any time of their choosing, enroll their children in public schools.

Ron October 9, 2014 at 7:11 pm

The state has an obligation to provide public education. It is no more a scam than asking me to help pave the road in front of your house, or a bridge over the Cooper River.

Sarah October 8, 2014 at 8:16 pm

Department of Commerce has one. Same dollar for dollar option. It’s been going on for years.

Thomas October 8, 2014 at 9:24 pm

If you claim a child care program credit for donations to a nonprofit corporation (Schedule TC-9), you are not allowed a deduction for those donations. The disallowed deductions are an addition to federal taxable income.
If you claim credits such as the Community Development Credit (Schedule TC-14), the Industry Partnership Fund Credit (Schedule TC-36), or the Credit for Child Care Program (Schedule TC-9), you may not claim a deduction for the same qualified contribution which results in credits.

Huh October 8, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Freedom works, go figure.

truthmonger October 8, 2014 at 11:44 pm

School choice is working? More like Sic is lying.

BIN News Eidtorial Staff October 9, 2014 at 1:53 am

This is nothing but more voucher scam rhetoric. Vouchers are a scam no matter what you call them – tax credits, educational credits, blah, blah, blah.

It’s just the latest version of Howie the Voucher Clown’s voucher scam.

The giant sucking sound we have heard over and over and over has been the S.C. Legislature wisely sending the voucher scam to the sewer where it belongs.

Howie and his Voucher Clowns just keep changing the perfume and lipstick on the voucher pig, but it’s still a scam because it does nothing for those who need help the most.

BIN News
Flair and Balanced

Smirks October 9, 2014 at 11:43 am

You mean helping some people flee public schools doesn’t actually help everyone?

craig321 October 9, 2014 at 12:13 pm

I know several kids who have been helped by St Thomas Aquinas. It is an excellent organization. It does good work. If this is an indication of how school choice is going to work, I say let’s do it!!!!


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