A Limited and Incremental Effort at School Choice
S.24 is a refiling of last session’s S.279, like last session’s bill S.24 would allow an annual state income tax deduction up to $2,000 for the parent(s)/guardian of each home-schooled student. It would allow a similar deduction up to $4,000 for each private school student, and up to $1,000 for each student attending a public school outside his/her resident public school district. Unfortunately, the deductions offered by this legislation fall short of offering real alternatives to average South Carolinians to our current public education system. A $4,000 deduction for a family making the median income in South Carolina would save that family roughly $280, hardly enough to pay for a private education.
The more meaningful portion of the bill offers tax credits to those who donate to organizations that provide primary education scholarships to children who qualify for various kinds of government assistance or are “exceptional needs”. This provision is superior to the small deductions offered to all parents but it could also be improved by loosening some of the restrictions on scholarship organizations and increasing the cap on tax credits for donations. It should also be noted a similar program for exceptional needs students already exists, though it too could stand to be improved (mostly by raising the tax credit cap), and there has already been a bill pre-filed to make the program permanent. For a more detailed analysis of this bill see our piece “School Choice this Year?”. For a more detailed discussion on how the bill could improve see our work here.