Both tax credit and voucher programs are school choice options for South Carolina. They are completely consistent with the South Carolina Constitution and relevant South Carolina state court decisions.

In 1973, South Carolina amended its Blaine Amendment by eliminating the ban on “indirect” funding of private educational institutions. According to the authoritative “West Committee,” 1  the change reflected the framers’ intent to allow public funds to be used to assist students who independently choose to attend private educational institutions, but to prohibit direct government subsidization of those institutions.

From the school choice perspective, this change is important for two reasons. First, a voucher program represents precisely the type of funding the framers of the current version of the state’s Blaine Amendment (Article XI, Section 4) wished to allow. Second, South Carolina Supreme Court cases like Hartness v. Patterson that reject the distinction between aid to students and aid to institutions are no longer valid, as they were premised on constitutional language that was later deleted in order to allow student benefit programs.

When crafting school choice legislation, South Carolina legislators may want to pattern it on the South Carolina Higher Education Excellence Enhancement Program, 2 which does an excellent job of adhering to the requirements of the South Carolina Constitution and the jurisprudence of South Carolina courts. The program includes a detailed legislative findings section that explicitly recognizes the role of private institutions in helping the state meet the needs of low-income and educationally disadvantaged students. Additionally, funds for the program are appropriated from the Education Lottery Account, and there are express rules governing their use.

Model Legislation: Education Savings Account, Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Universal Eligibility), Parental Choice Scholarship Program (Means-Tested Eligibility), Special Needs Scholarship Program, Foster Child Scholarship Program, Autism Scholarship, Great Schools Tax Credit Program, Family Education Tax Credit Program