Public Education Partners Greenville County (PEPGC) and Richland County Public Education Partners (RCPEP) jointly filed an amici curiae brief in Adams v. McMaster. The case, currently before the South Carolina Supreme Court, could determine the fate of Governor McMaster’s Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) Grants program which aims to create a tuition voucher program for private school students using taxpayer dollars.
Governor McMaster was awarded $48 million pursuant to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and elected to use two-thirds of the funds to create his SAFE Grants program. The program would provide 5,000 students with grants of up to $6,500 to apply toward the cost of tuition at participating private schools. To date, none of the Governor’s discretionary funds have been awarded to K-12 public schools, despite a demonstrated need for additional school nurses, barriers to broadband access, growing food and housing insecurity, and projected declines in critical local revenue to name just a few of the challenges faced by the state’s public education system.
It is within this context that PEPGC and RCPEP filed their amici curiae brief. As nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations that work in partnership with and provide financial and programmatic support to public school districts in Greenville and Richland Counties, PEPGC and RCPEP sought leave to appear as amici to provide perspective and additional context in the Adams matter.
The organizations presented arguments that the Governor acted outside the authority granted to him in the CARES Act and that the SAFE Grants program would violate the South Carolina Constitution by impermissibly providing a direct benefit to private education institutions.
“There is never a good time to divert public money to private schools, but it seems to me that doing so in the midst of a pandemic when so many of our public schools don’t have what they need is the worst time. In creating the SAFE Grants program Governor McMaster has ignored the clear intent of Congress. More importantly, he has turned his back on our public schools which need us now more than ever,” said RCPEP Executive Director and Counsel Robert Lominack.
Both organizations call on South Carolinians to raise their collective voice in support of public schools and to encourage their elected officials to jealously guard public funding for public education. “There is an organized and well-funded effort to undermine the value of public schools as central to our communities’ civic, economic, and social well-being. To meet the moment, it is critical that public education supporters speak out and get involved,” PEPGC’s Policy and Advocacy Director and Counsel Lindsey Jacobs provided.
Oral arguments in the matter took place Friday, September 18, at 11:00 a.m. No matter the outcome, both organizations are committed to a zealous defense of public education funding and advocacy on behalf of our students, teachers, and schools.