This is in response to a March 31 article, “Disabled children’s program to be audited.” The report revealed that a local scholarship organization, Palmetto Kids FIRST, is being investigated by the State Department of Revenue over the organization’s apparent practice of awarding tuition scholarships to exceptional needs children whose parents had made contributions to their organization. Incidentally, this article also mentioned that parent donors to such a scholarship fund can receive S.C. tax return credits (dollar for dollar) for the amount of their contributions up to $10,000.
The pseudo legislation allowing scholarships to independent private or religious schools for exceptional needs children was contained in Proviso 1.80 of the 2014-2105 General Appropriations Act. During the current discussion of the 2015-2016 budget, Proviso 1.68 has been introduced to expand the definition of “exceptional needs” to include children of military families, any student considered to be “at risk,” homeless children, foster children or any child whose parents consider the local public school is not sufficiently meeting his needs. The latter category paves the road toward private school vouchers for all.
The S.C. Supreme Court made its final ruling last year on the Abbeville et al vs State of South Carolina case and directed the Legislature to make improvements to the public school system to provide what the S.C. Constitution dictates. Certainly, the Proviso 1.68 maneuver was neither anticipated or intended by the Constitution or the Supreme Court.
Please contact your state legislators to express your concerns over this frontal assault on the public school system. Ask them to eliminate Proviso 1.68 from the budget bill. Timing is critical.
FREIDA F. MCDUFFIE
Harbor Oaks Drive