The coronavirus has robbed children of in-person learning, time with friends and rites of passage such as prom and walking across the stage at commencement. Amid the uncertainty of the widely varying fall semester reopening plans, there is a glimmer of hope in the Palmetto State. 

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster announced on Monday, July 20, that $32 million of the state’s Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds (funds made available through the CARES Act) will be awarded to individuals currently attending or seeking to enroll in private or independent schools. 

The Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) grants will award one time, needs-based grants capped at $6,500 to schools of the parent’s choice.

Private schools in our state provide an essential education to over 50,000 children. They provide parents the ability to choose the type of education environment and instruction they feel best suits their child’s unique needs. And a large number of these students come from working or low-income families who – in the best economy – are barely able to scrimp and scrape together just enough money to pay their child’s tuition.

Through GEER funding, the nation’s governors were given wide discretion as to how their state’s portion of the $3 billion would be used to address the K – 12 and higher education needs resulting from the pandemic. 

This flexibility is especially helpful as many districts are considering alternating schedules that will have students only attending in-person classes one day a week. Other districts have released six-week schedules which have left parents working full-time jobs struggling to find consistent supervision for their children on e-learning days. 

At the program announcement, Ellen Weaver, founding president and CEO of Palmetto Promise, applauded the move and cited the success Florida has had with a similar program. 

COVID-19 hasn’t discriminated between the learning and health of public and private school students and neither should we. Congress clearly intended all students to benefit from these resources. While public schools receive the lion’s share of CARES Act funding, every student’s education has been impacted, and every student deserves our help…

Undoubtedly teachers unions will denounce the move but consumers will welcome more options. 

As parents around the country grapple with ever-changing regulations and face employment disruptions, school choice programs provide parents with increased educational options and the financial means to send their child to the school that is best suited to their individual needs.