South Carolina to Give $10.5M for Charter and Online Schools

Gov. Henry McMaster will apportion another $1.5 million for a workforce development program for young people, and $9 million for charter schools to accommodate growing enrollment in person and online.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster
(TNS/Richard Ellis)
(TNS) — South Carolina's charter schools will get another infusion of money to help keep up with student enrollment growth.

On Wednesday, Gov. Henry McMaster's office announced the Columbia Republican will spend $9 million out of his federal discretionary COVID-19 education account on charter school growth and $1.5 million for the state's Department of Commerce to help with workforce development.

"For South Carolina to continue its unprecedented economic growth we must continue to invest in our young people," McMaster said in a statement late Wednesday. "These grants will do just that by providing additional opportunity for our children to go to schools that best fit their needs and by giving our young workers, who were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the resources they need to find jobs right here in South Carolina."

The $9 million investment for charter schools will be split based on the number of students enrolled in brick-and-mortar and virtual charter schools as of the 135th day of enrollment in the current school year, the Governor's Office said in a news release.

But, because of the instruction costs, charter schools that teach students in person, not online, will get $220 per student.

Virtual charter schools will get $116 per student.

"His support will ensure we can continue to provide our students a high-quality education in a safe and in-person setting," said Chris Neeley, superintendent of South Carolina's Public Charter School District.

South Carolina's charter schools, both in person and virtual, have seen a spike in growth — about 25 percent — over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, after most public school districts remained closed to students in person out of concern of further spreading the virus.

The state's school districts have steadily reopened to students in person, and on Wednesday, the Legislature moved forward on a measure that would require school districts to reopen to students in person by the month's end.

The governor's $1.5 million spending for the Commerce Department will help the state Cabinet agency create a "Workforce Journey's initiative" that the Governor's Office said will help South Carolinians between the ages of 16 and 24 prepare for their careers and find jobs.

The program will target high schools, career and technical education centers and colleges and employers, the release said.

McMaster's announcement comes hours after a group on behalf of private schools and institutions sued over a provision in the South Carolina Constitution they say is discriminatory and that prohibited them from getting dollars out of the same account because they are private, not public.

That lawsuit follows two court denials, barring McMaster from spending money out of the Governor's Emergency Education Relief on private institutions.

Through a federal law, McMaster received $48 million through the education account. Here's what else he has spent from it:

  • $8 million, to help pay for short-term training programs through the state's Technical College System.
  • $7 million, to expand day and summer programs for 4-year-old kindergartners.
  • $6 million, to pay for eight regional computer labs through the the University of South Carolina.
  • $4.9 million, on educational needs for the state's foster care children and youth in group homes.

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