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Public vs. Private: McMaster announces “SAFE Grant”

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Governor Henry McMaster announced a SAFE Grant Education program that aims to help private school students in SC this week. The grant, known as the Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, allocates $32 million to private schools throughout the state. This came as a relief to many, and to the dismay of the rest. While private schools stand to benefit from this tremendously, many public school teachers and staff feel as though they have been left in the dust. According to some, public education systems know this feeling all too well. 

“[We are] disappointed in Governor McMaster’s decision to direct $32 million in federal GEER funding to the new “SAFE grant” scholarship program,” said The Palmetto State Teachers Association in a press release Monday. “At at time where South Carolina’s public schools are faced with unprecedented operational challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, these funds could be better used by ensuring our public schools have as many resources as possible to ensure a safe return to in-person instruction when public health conditions make it possible to do so.”

While this decision was made on a state level, it is obvious how much it will impact all schools locally. Kimberly Johnson, who serves on the Clarendon School District 2 board, used this decision as an opportunity to share on the importance of voting in November. 

“Much has been said about the Governor’s decision to give $32 million in tuition grants to private schools; while public schools fail to be funded to the full extent of the law,” said Johnson in a FaceBook post. “If you are as upset about this as I am, register and meet me at the polls in November and every other election after that. The days of electing school board members…who are more concerned with party affiliation than they are with the responsibility to which they have been entrusted, are over.”

On the other side of the fence is the South Carolina Independent School Association. They are happy with this grant, which will provide up to $6,500 in tuition fees to low and middle-income families for use at participating independent schools. 

“Governor McMaster has placed all students of South Carolina in an outstanding position for future academic success by the development and implementation of the SAFE Grant,” said SCISA Executive Director Spencer A. Jordan in a press release. “This scholarship will enable students and families that have suffered because of the COVID-19 pandemic an opportunity to enroll or continue their enrollment in one of our outstanding independent schools throughout South Carolina.”

Opposing viewpoints are now coming in from all corners of the state, with private and public school attendees, parents, and staff weighing in on the issue at hand. For private schools, this means higher enrollment and better opportunity. For public schools, this means one more cog in a machine that never really worked. 

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