Parental choice for schools seems to be gaining momentum in South Carolina! Here’s a brief update as well as highlights from several recent opportunities.
The Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children (ECENC) aids students with special needs who are attending South Carolina private schools. The program includes both parental tax credits and scholarship opportunities. Twenty-five BJA students recently received scholarships through the ECENC’s scholarship funding organization, Exceptional SC. The newly appointed director of Exceptional SC, Chad Connelly, is working hard toward seeing that the ECENC moves from budget proviso to codified legislation this legislative session. Chad recently created and hosted a lobbying opportunity for families, noting that the common man so rarely goes to Columbia to promote a cause—legislators see their constituents in Columbia maybe five times a year—that when a group does come, the legislators pay a lot of attention.
The parents and school representatives who attended were able to speak to the subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, where the proposed legislation then moved forward. The group was also introduced to both the House and the Senate, again highlighting the importance of the ECENC. Lieutenant Governor Kevin Bryant provided break space and refreshments for our group and took the time to speak with us. We also met South Carolina’s State Superintendent of Education, Molly Spearman, who is a proponent of this school choice program. (On an encouraging side note, Mrs. Spearman made a point to tell Dr. Nelson and me about a BJU faculty member who regularly preached at her church in Prosperity, SC, when she was a child. She told us, “It was under his ministry that I came to the Lord.”) Constituents can make their voices heard through email or calls to their legislators’ offices. Similarly with visits to Columbia, direct contact from constituents is infrequent, but you can make your voice heard! Contact information is available here.
BJU graduate Ellen Weaver, president of Palmetto Promise Institute, a nonprofit policy research organization in Columbia, organized another school choice promotional at Hidden Treasure Christian School in Taylors.
Among those who spoke were former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint and Kimberly Richey, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitative Services at the United States Department of Education, with greetings from U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.
One more school choice promotional was requested by Lieutenant Governor Kevin Bryant. Lt. Governor Bryant is the original sponsor of the ECENC and wanted to hear and see how it’s working at a school like BJA. Of course we were delighted to host him as he stopped by on his way to an event as he is on the campaign trail as a SC gubernatorial candidate. He met with several parents who have children in BJA’s Learning Resource Center and also visited several LRC classes in session.
Another school choice opportunity that was included in the recent tax reform was expansion of 529 accounts. The result is that these tax-advantaged savings plans, originally intended for only higher education expenses, may now be used for K-12 educational expenses. We spoke to several legislators about this when we were in Columbia and hope to share detailed information with our families as the implication of this reform becomes clearer. You may want to keep your eye on the official website for more details.