No ruling so far in SAFE Grants lawsuit

VIDEO: No ruling so far in SAFE Grants program lawsuit

ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WCSC) - An Orangeburg County Circuit Court judge did not rule in a hearing over the use of CARES Act money to help families afford private school tuition.

Attorneys presented arguments Wednesday afternoon over whether the judge should issue a temporary injunction to block Gov. Henry McMaster from using funds from the CARES Act to help qualifying families afford private school tuition.

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Posted by WIS TV on Wednesday, July 29, 2020

A judge issued a temporary restraining order on July 22 to prevent the distribution of SAFE Grants designed to help subsidize private and parochial school tuition for lower-income students.

McMaster announced the new program two days earlier, saying he would allocate $32 million in funding for the program. The money comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. South Carolina’s share of GEER Funds totaled $48 million.

The plaintiff, Dr. Thomasena Adams, a resident of Orangeburg County, filed the lawsuit requesting the temporary restraining order. Adams has worked more than 15 years in public education and petitioned the court claiming the grant program violates a portion of the South Carolina Constitution preventing the state from funding private or religious education.

Attorneys for the Governor’s Office argue the money isn’t going to the private institutions directly, but rather parents and students to help offset tuition costs.

“Working families in South Carolina are struggling to make ends meet during this pandemic and every parent should have the opportunity to choose the educational instruction that best suits their child’s needs,” Governor’s spokesman Brian Symmes said in response to the restraining order. “Federal coronavirus relief cannot, and should not, be denied to any citizen in need.”

Under the plan, grants of up to $6,500 would be needs-based and to be eligible for SAFE Grants, a student must be from a household with an adjusted gross income of 300% or less of the federal poverty level, McMaster said.

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