CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced plans Tuesday morning to spend almost $20 million from the Governor’s Education Emergency Relief fund on early childhood education, job training and tutors for foster children.
The plan calls for grants to be distributed between the Department of Social Services, the South Carolina Technical College System, the Office of First Steps and the Department of Education.
“Through this pandemic, South Carolina has remained a place of enormous opportunity, and we must continue to work to create these opportunities for our children and those seeking employment,” McMaster said. “These targeted grants will train thousands of South Carolinians for high-demand jobs and provide the groundwork for our next generation to excel in the workplace.”
The spending plan would divide the funding in three areas:
McMaster wants to use $7.0 million to pay for expanded day or summer programs for children eligible for the full-day 4K program.
The Office of First Steps to School Readiness and the South Carolina Department of Education administer the full-day 4K program for at-risk children in 61 school districts statewide.
Currently, children who are Medicaid-eligible or whose family income is 185 percent or less of the federal poverty level can attend a full-day 4K program at no cost to the family. Families have the option of choosing a private child care or a public school.
Due to the pandemic, enrollment in the full-day 4K programs is down. In private settings, enrollment is down 12%. In public schools, the decline is more dramatic at 23%.
Educators say kindergarten readiness is one of the most important predictors of a child’s success in school. Children in poverty who attended full-day 4K programs were more likely to enter kindergarten ready to learn than their peers who did not have access to quality, full-day programs.
The programs will benefit at-risk children who will enter kindergarten in the fall of 2021 and in the fall of 2022 is imperative to ensure that they are ready for kindergarten, the governor’s office said.
The allocation of the funds will be $5.0 million to the Office of First Steps and $2.0 million to the South Carolina Department of Education. Throughout the history of the program, private providers have provided more extended day and summer programs to children than public schools. More funds may be provided if there is more interest in this program in public schools, the governor’s office said.
DSS will receive $4,913,800 to address the educational needs of foster care children and youth in group homes. Foster care children were the state’s most vulnerable children before the pandemic. McMaster says the pandemic has only exacerbated the educational needs of these children. The award will fund the following for the approximately 600 foster care children and youth in 74 group homes:
- Purchase and deploy electronic devices to group home settings at $225,000;
- Increase bandwidth for the 74 group homes at $88,800;
- Provide tutoring services for children and youth in group home settings at $4,320,000; and
- Fund special education services for children and youth with disabilities in group home settings at $280,000.
McMaster will sent $8 million to the South Carolina Technical College System to provide training programs for 3,100 adults in such career areas including healthcare, computer technology and information technology; advanced manufacturing, distribution and logistics; and criminal justice and corrections.
McMaster said the demand for non-credit, continuing education programs has increased because of the pandemic. South Carolinians negatively impacted by COVID-19 rely on technical colleges to provide retraining programs that prepare them for employment in high-demand fields, he said.
McMaster says the GEER fund is composed of money given to states through the CARES Act.
McMaster originally wanted to spend most of the money on grants of up to $6,500 to help parents send children to private or religious schools, a plan he announced back in July. But the state Supreme Court ruled in October that was unconstitutional because it gave public money to private schools.