Judge temporarily blocks McMaster’s plan to provide $32M in private school scholarships

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Updated: Jul. 22, 2020 at 2:13 PM EDT
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ORANGEBURG, S.C. (WIS) - An Orangeburg County circuit court judge signed a temporary restraining order Wednesday to prevent the distribution of grants meant to help pay for private school tuition for low-income students.

Gov. Henry McMaster announced the Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) Grants on Monday, giving $32 million in emergency funding to the school-choice program.

That money comes from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund, which was allocated to the state amid the COVID-19 pandemic. South Carolina’s share of GEER funds total $48 million, meaning the bulk would go to SAFE Grants.

Dr. Thomasena Adams, a resident of Orangeburg, is the person who filed a lawsuit asking for the temporary restraining order.

Adams says she worked in public education for 15 years and has a Doctorate in Education.

The lawsuit claims the South Carolina Constitution says public funds cannot be given to religious or other private educational institutions. It further claims GEER Funds are public.

The lawsuit also claims the governor is giving a disproportionate amount of money to the approximately 5,000 private school students in the state, as opposed to the more than 800,000 students in public schools.

“Orangeburg County will receive just under $6 million in CARES Act funding, which will amount to approximately $473 per student,” the lawsuit reads, “in comparison to up to $6,500 per student through Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE) Grants.”

Adams requested a temporary restraining order in her lawsuit, and that was granted by a judge.

The judge scheduled a hearing on the matter for Wednesday, July 29 at 2 p.m.

While the restraining order prevents funds from being dispersed through the SAFE Grants program, it does not halt the application process for interested students.

The governor’s office issued the following response to the lawsuit:

“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. Federal coronavirus relief cannot, and should not, be denied to any citizen in need.”

Brian Symmes, Communications Director for Governor Henry McMaster

Read the full lawsuit below:

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