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What You Missed: Judge temporarily blocks gov's effort to give $32M to private schools

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Gov. Henry McMaster in Greenville (copy)

SC Gov. Henry McMaster went to a private school in Greenville on Monday to announce that he was giving more federal emergency funding per student to private schools than public schools have received. Photo by Anna B. Mitchell/The Post and Courier

Not so fast, governor. A judge hit the pause button, at least temporarily, on Republican Gov. Henry McMaster’s plan to put $32 million in federal COVID-19 aid toward helping parents with private school tuition this year. As reported by The Post and Courier’s Jamie Lovegrove, Orangeburg attorney Skyler Hutto filed a motion in court claiming that the effort to give public funds for private school tuition goes against the state constitution. Judge Edgar Dickson granted Hutto — who is the son of longtime Democratic state Sen. Brad Hutto — a temporary restraining order in the matter. As Free Times was going to press, court arguments were set to be heard in the matter this week. As reported by Lovegrove, Hutto filed the suit on behalf of a public educator from Orangeburg and cited a section of the state constitution that says, “No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” Meanwhile, McMaster’s office insists the governor’s plan is proper. “Working families in South Carolina are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic and every parent should have the opportunity to choose the educational instruction that best suits their child’s needs,” McMaster spokesman Brian Symmes said. “Federal coronavirus relief cannot, and should not, be denied to any citizen in need.”

Board members at Governor’s School ousted days after opting for virtual school start

Nearly half of the board for the state’s Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics was ousted three days after voting to start school virtually in the fall. As reported by The Post and Courier, Gov. Henry McMaster says he was updating appointments for those board members whose terms had expired. But seeing as the removals came just after the governor’s controversial request that schools reopen statewide with an option of five-day in-person teaching, at least one ousted trustee thought the timing was suspicious. Ousted board member Art Tompkins in, an email to The Post and Courier, said “either [McMaster’s] timing was purely coincidental (and now very bad optics) or was in response to a recent Board vote” to have virtual school in the fall. Meanwhile, a governor’s office spokesman noted McMaster “recognized that there were vacancies on the board and many members sitting in expired terms.” The Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics is one of two governor’s schools in South Carolina.

Charter schools in SC got millions in federal aid that public schools couldn’t access

Charter schools in South Carolina received millions in COVID-19 federal relief aid that was not available to regular public schools. As reported by Seanna Adcox at The Post and Courier, charter schools got a share of the $195 million in CARES Act funding intended for K-12 education in South Carolina. But 32 charter schools also got additional Paycheck Protection Program loans from the government meant to help small businesses. Each of those loans was good for at least $150,000. “That’s not fair,” said Debbie Elmore, spokeswoman for the state School Boards Association, according to The Post and Courier. “I don’t see what the differences are. If they qualify, all public schools should’ve been able to qualify. Why aren’t they the same as a public school district?” Adcox reports that charter school leaders “contend their schools are uniquely disadvantaged financially and needed the boost to make it through the pandemic-forced closures.”

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