State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, plans to prefile legislation to more than double to $25 million a tax credit program that helps students with disabilities go to private schools.
Davis also wants to set aside another $25 million in tax credits for donors whose money would pay for poor children to go to private schools.
Davis said the program for economically disadvantaged children – those who are qualify for federal free or reduced-cost lunches, or Medicaid benefits – could be a part of the Legislature’s response to a Supreme Court ruling saying the state is not doing enough for poor, rural students and their schools.
“There’s clearly a disconnect between inputs and outcomes,” said Davis, a libertarian Republican and public education critic.
However, Democrats likely will oppose his proposal.
“The best way to help economically disadvantaged kids is to provide them with a quality public education,” said state Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland.
Davis’ proposal would make available more tax credits to donors who contribute to a nonprofit that makes private school tuition grants to students with disabilities or those who live in poverty. In return for their donations, contributors could claim a tax credit reducing the state taxes that they owe by up to 60 percent.
The state now offers up to $10 million in credits for donations to the program for students with disabilities. Davis wants to add another $15 million for students with disabilities and $25 million for poor children, bringing to $50 million the total in tax credits.
Until July, the state allowed nonprofit scholarship groups to raise money that was eligible for the tax credits and issue private school tuition grants to children with disabilities. But lawmakers gave the state direct control of the scholarship program after hearing concerns about how it was being operated.
In 2014, for example, The State newspaper reported private school parents were being pressured to donate in exchange for scholarships. The state’s tax agency found that arrangement violated state law.