Education report card: South Carolina vs. neighbors

July 19, 2019

Private: Lawson Mansell

Policy Content Manager

South Carolina continues to sink below our southeastern neighbors in education outcomes. On almost every indicator, data shows that South Carolina is behind the curve. In light of that, Palmetto Promise has done some digging to look at how South Carolina really stacks up to our neighboring states on education innovation and performance.

We’ve assigned 1-4 rankings to Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina on issues ranging from spending, academic gains, and percentage of students exercising school choice. On 4 of the 7 issues analyzed, South Carolina ranked last. 



North Carolina:

And here’s South Carolina:

* On the issues where states received equal grades, they were also assigned identical ranks.

Download this report.

While South Carolina ranks last overall, Florida ranks first on all but one factor in our review. To anyone who has been following the trends over the last two decades it comes as no surprise. In fact, in Palmetto Promises’ inaugural press release and report in Spring 2013, we released data comparing Florida and South Carolina’s outcomes.

In 1998, South Carolina students led Florida students in performance on several national tests, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “The Nation’s Report Card.” But over the last two decades, Florida far surpassed South Carolina in K-12 education outcomes, most notably among traditionally disadvantaged student populations.

Although there are many factors to such a transformation, the emphasis Florida has put on education choice cannot be ignored.

Currently, only 0.30% of South Carolina students are exercising some form of school choice, compared to 5% in Florida. That’s because only 100,000 South Carolina students are eligible for choice programs, while millions of students in Florida can take advantage of education choice. The programs Florida has implemented largely apply to special needs and low-income students.

Forward-looking, bold reforms like school choice will help position South Carolina as an innovation leader among our neighboring states. Florida’s success, especially among disadvantaged populations, shows that dramatic improvement is possible. Palmetto Promise is committed to seeing that potential realized.