Efforts to expand private-school choice in South Carolina are about to ramp up.
Chad Connelly has been named executive director of Exceptional SC, a nonprofit created by the state GOP-controlled Legislature to run the state’s private-school choice program. That nonprofit raises money to give tuition grants to children with disabilities so they can attend private schools.
Connelly, a former S.C. Republican Party chairman and faith outreach director for the national GOP, has been hired to push for the program’s expansion, according to a news release from the nonprofit.
“Connelly’s national reputation in both political and alternative educational circles makes his selection a crucial next step in Exceptional SC’s efforts to expand the state’s scholarship program from $11 million to $25 million during the coming legislative session,” the statement said.
Connelly has held a similar job in South Carolina before.
From 2003 to 2012, he was director of South Carolinians for Responsible Government, an advocacy group that pushed private-school choice proposals in the S.C. Legislature.
In 2013, lawmakers adopted the state’s first choice program, aimed narrowly at helping students with disabilities pay for private school. The program gives tuition grants to about 2,400 students, according to Exceptional SC.
State lawmakers would have to expand the choice program to allow it to make $25 million a year in grants, made possible through a state tax credit. Donors to Exceptional SC are eligible for a dollar-for-dollar tax credit that can reduce their state taxes by up to 60 percent.
Those credits currently are capped at $11 million a year.
Connelly, who was not immediately available for comment Tuesday, was S.C. GOP chairman from 2011 to 2013 when he became the Republican National Committee’s faith engagement director.
Earlier this year, Connelly ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination for the state’s 5th District congressional seat. That seat was vacated when Mick Mulvaney resigned to become President Donald Trump’s budget director.