Parents, educators respond to SAFE Grants laid out by SC Governor

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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Parents, educators, and administrators have mixed feelings about Governor Henry McMaster’s plan to distribute $32 million to SC families to help cover private school tuitions.

The Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) Grants, would give about 5,000 students up to $6,500 to help cover the cost of private school.

According to Gov. McMaster, there are approximately 50,000 students in the private school system in the state.

“It will satisfy a lot of needs and it will educate a lot of children,” said the Governor in announcement Monday.

A few private school families spoke positively about the grant program during the Governor’s news conference.

“We have definitely battled two jobs and sometimes doing even more to keep them there and now thanks to this program we’ll be able to keep them there again this year,” said one mother whose children attend St. Joseph’s Catholic Church and School in Anderson, SC.

Some families and public school advocates in the state are disappointed with the possible allocation of funds, including Sherry East, the president of the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA).

“There’s just so many things that could have been done with that money,” said East. “So many things we’ve asked for.”

She met with Governor McMaster last year and said it was a successful encounter. Now though, she says the Governor’s words and actions aren’t lining up.

East explained to News 2 that last week, Gov. McMaster was talking about his concern for vulnerable children in the state, and how it’s important to bring them back to school.

“Well, a lot of the money that you just gave to private schools, you could have funded a lot of things to help us with those populations,” said East.

She has spoken to many public school teachers throughout the state in the past few days and she says they’re feeling discouraged and some are even ready to quit their jobs.

“Disrespected,” said East. “I think [we feel] undervalued like we don’t matter.”

An Orangeburg County judge has signed a temporary restraining order to prevent the distribution of the funds after Dr. Thomasena Adams, a resident of Orangeburg, filed a lawsuit.

This, while other groups, including SCEA are considering filing their own legal actions.

“We are exploring our options on what may happen, so stay tuned,” said East. “Stay tuned to what associations may do around this situation.”

A hearing will be held Wednesday, July 29th to determine the future of the SAFE grants.

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