VOTE NOW: Policy Bracketology

April 3, 2024

Palmetto Promise Team

We don’t know about y’all, but March Madness has the Palmetto Promise team in a bracket-making mood. 

Because we’ve recently celebrated Palmetto Promise Institute’s eleventh birthday, we have been reflecting on the impact our work has had on state policy over that time and what we regard as our top accomplishments.  

Naturally, these rankings found their way into a March Madness style bracket, and, while we narrowed the field down a bit, we wanted to ask YOU, our loyal followers, which Palmetto Promise initiative deserves the distinction of being named our greatest policy win. 

So, in honor of the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four, will you cast your vote for our policy Final Four? 

Click here to view the whole bracket, with links to each policy included, or continue reading below for a synopsis of each contender in our bracket. 




Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) (2015-2024)

Palmetto Promise first advocated for South Carolina to adopt an ESA model back in 2015. That is almost ten years of advocacy! We took up this challenge out of our sincere belief that South Carolina education dollars should follow the student, and opportunity should be available to all children, not just limited based on a zip code or income. The ESA law that passed in 2023 established a three-year phase in for the Education Scholarship Trust Fund (ESTF) program, which awards eligible families a $6,000 scholarship to use for their student’s educational expenses, such as private school tuition, online school, public school interdistrict transfer fees, textbooks, disability services, and much more. Palmetto Promise has recently worked to help implement this program, creating our informational website and encouraging student applications with an extensive outreach campaign. Additionally, we are working to expand this ESA program to a universal model, so more South Carolina students can have these opportunities.  


Education Finance Reform(2017-2022)

Palmetto Promise authored two comprehensive studies on Education Finance Reform, both of which showed how scores of program-oriented line items could be collapsed, providing flexibility for districts and a more student-centered funding approach. After years of advocacy, the General Assembly enacted generational change in school funding, leading to a fairer more student-centered funding stream and full funding for Charter schools for the first time. 



School District Consolidation (2018-2021)

South Carolina has too many small and shrinking school districts, particularly in rural areas. Some entire districts are not even the size of a typical high school. But analysis was needed for the leaders of the state to see exactly how inefficient and how small. Stronger Together provided a template for ideal school district size and boldly prioritized which districts needed to be merged to create efficiency and a broader pool of district leadership.  


Certificate of Need (CON) Repeal (2016-2023)

A 1970s-era Certificate of Need law led to high prices, long wait times, and low- quality healthcare in South Carolina. In 2016, only our third year of existence, Palmetto Promise Institute started the conversation about the need to repeal South Carolina’s Certificate of Need (CON) statute. When the fight began, the tides were strongly against us. An opponent of our efforts even told us, “we will nuke you.” No one gave our little coalition a chance, particularly in “incrementalist” South Carolina, with the added challenge of an army of highly-paid lobbyists patrolling the Statehouse. Yet, through telling the stories of physicians and patients, drawing on a wide breadth of in-house and national policy research, and enjoying grassroots work by allies, PPI was able to chip away at support for CON each year (2016-2023). In a few years, we went from all the odds stacked against us to the nation’s most significant CON repeal since 2015. Ultimately, the legislation passed the House and Senate with bipartisan and unanimous support. 




Read about the rest of our bracket: 


State Income Tax Cut (2015-2022)
Occupational Licensing Reform(2016-2024)
SC Education Dashboard(2021)
Election Law Reforms(2021-2022)


Medicaid Expansion Report (2013-2016) (Unaffordable Care (2013, updated 2015) and Medicaid By the Numbers (2016)) 
Defeating Common Core (2014) 
Education vs. Indoctrination Dossier (2022) 
Santee Cooper Oversight Reforms (2021) 
Protecting Donor Privacy (2017) 
Enterprise Friendly Cities (2017) 
Empower Opportunity Catalogue (2014) 
Education Reform: SC vs. FL (2013) 

When Palmetto Promise started years ago, we could have never dreamed it would grow into such an impactful organization, and we are so grateful for all of you who have partnered with us along the way.  

Did we get the bracket right? Let us know how you would have awarded each matchup. 

And make sure you vote on our Final Four matchups! We will report back to you with the results and our championship round next week.

Happy March Madness!