South Carolina Legislator Champions Education Tax Deductions

Published February 7, 2013

A South Carolina lawmaker has introduced a school choice bill that would give parents a $4,000 tax deduction per year for each child they send to independent schools, a $1,000 tax deduction for those sent to public schools outside their district, and a $2,000 tax deduction for those that homeschool.

After filing Senate Bill 279 in January, State Sen. Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley), a past winner of the National Coalition for Public School Options’ Golden Apple Award, posted on his Facebook page, “All parents strive to be able to provide the best opportunities for their children.… This bill brings market-based solutions to our education system in desperate need of reform.”

The bill would also let individuals and businesses receive tax credits for donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations that provide tuition grants for children whose families are eligible for Medicaid or free and reduced-price lunch, or those with special needs. These are often called “tax-credit scholarships” or simply vouchers. This element of S.B. 279 is modeled after school choice laws in states such as Florida and Arizona, where thousands of children attend private schools on scholarships paid with tax-deductible donations.

The total amount of such deductions would be limited to $25 million. Scholarship organizations could give students grants of up to $5,000 per year or the cost of tuition, whichever is less. Donors would be allowed to write off no more than 60 percent of their tax bill.

School Choice Support
A Palmetto State homeschooling organization supports the bill.

“While we oppose any form of tax vouchers, we do support tax credits, and a tax deduction would have the same effect.  From a homeschooler’s perspective, this is a bill we can support,” said Gale Farrier, a board member of the South Carolina Home Educators Association.

Barton Swaim, communications manager for the South Carolina Policy Council, questions whether offering tax credits to organizations, instead of to individuals, is a step in the right direction toward universal school choice.

“[I]t’s just a complicated way to deal with a problem that’s actually pretty simple,” Swaim said. “Instead of giving credits to organizations and deductions to individuals, we should be giving credits directly to individuals. The credit for scholarship funds isn’t a terrible idea, but we don’t think it will increase giving in any sizeable way. After all, organizations could already deduct contributions if they want to.”

South Carolina’s state superintendent, Mick Zais, supports the legislation, said spokesman Jay Ragley.

Grooms, who is running for Congress with an “eliminate the [Federal] Department of Education” plank in his platform, had a word for constituents during National School Choice Week in January: “Demand action. Demand opportunity for every child. It is time for the South Carolina legislature to pass universal school choice. It is time for the South Carolina legislature to let all children—regardless of income, race, or social status—attend the school that their parents choose for them.” 


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