Greenville lawmakers urge action on school choice bill

October 6, 2021

Palmetto Promise Team

The January legislative session is fast approaching and conversations about top priorities are heating up. Nothing is more critical to South Carolina’s future—and preserving access to the American Dream—than the issue of education.

That’s why one of PPI’s has worked tirelessly over the years to see South Carolina finally join the ranks of states like Florida and Arizona where expanding education freedom—commonly called school choice—has transformed the lives of students who need it most.

South Carolina’s Education Scholarship Account (ESA) bill finished the 2021 session sitting in a House Ways & Means subcommittee hearing. Thankfully, since the Palmetto State operates on a two-year session, the bill is still very much alive to move in 2022.

And this week, Upstate lawmakers took action to get the ball rolling.

Eleven Greenville-area representatives sent a letter to South Carolina Speaker of the House Jay Lucas, asking him to put his “shoulder to the wheel” to prioritize and pass ESAs (H.3976) when the General Assembly reconvenes in January. Quoting from their letter:

Our traditional K-12 education system in South Carolina has seen an influx of over $3 billion in emergency funding. Nevertheless, parents have been left to struggle through education disruptions on their own. If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that parents of all income levels must be empowered to choose the education that is right for their child.

Gold-standard research of real experience has proven that when parents have an education choice, their students have a better chance at success. Thankfully, our fellow-lawmakers from across the country are reading the research and listening to the voices of parents who strongly support these programs:

  • With COVID-19 pandemic pushing more families to demand educational options for their kids, polling data from RealClear Opinion Research shows that from April 2020 to June 2021, support for school choice jumped from 64% to 74%.
  • 2021 has been rightly dubbed “The Year of School Choice.” A tidal wave of states have acted—18 states have adopted 30 new or expanded school choice programs already this year. Even more states, including South Carolina, have school choice legislation in play for 2022. 

….ESA’s are the vanguard of school choice programs, by far the most innovative, constitutional, flexible, and parent-controlled form of education choice that exists. 

Thankfully, Speaker Lucas is a primary sponsor of the bill and has been a vocal supporter of this critical legislation. The bill already has 64 co-sponsors in the House, showing broad support for bold school choice “inside the chamber.”

Representative Garry Smith, Chairman of the Greenville County legislative delegation, summed up South Carolina’s opportunity well:

“The pandemic has been an education nightmare for many Upstate families. My colleagues and I know that students are struggling. Education Scholarship Accounts are a proven tool that empowers parents to get their child the education help they need, regardless of their income level.

We know that one-size-fits-all education isn’t working well for too many students, parents, and teachers. Many other states have led the way to increase flexible education options for families and are seeing great results. The need is urgent: it’s time for South Carolina to put parents in the driver’s seat of their child’s education.”

We are encouraged by the strong stance taken by these lawmakers and look forward to keeping you posted on the forward march of ESAs—and the education freedom they bring—come January!

Want to make your voice heard on school choice? You can find your lawmaker with this simple tool!