McMaster petitions SC Supreme Court to rehear SAFE Grants case

Updated: Oct. 23, 2020 at 6:23 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Gov. Henry McMaster has petitioned the Supreme Court of South Carolina to rehear a case that ruled his new grant program for private school tuition is unconstitutional.

On Oct. 7, the state Supreme Court struck down the Safe Access to Flexible Education Grants, or SAFE Grants.

McMaster tried to allocate $32 million of his GEER funds for the SAFE Grants program.

For background, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act created “Governor’s Emergency Education Relief,” or GEER funding, for each state.

The state Supreme Court ruled the grants are prohibited by the state constitution because they use public funds for the direct benefit of private educational institutions.

In the 33-page petition for a rehearing, the governor said the GEER funds do not qualify as state public funds.

The petition also says the ruling impacts some of the CARES Act allocations the General Assembly made earlier this year.

In September, lawmakers approved $115 million from the CARES Act to be used to reimburse local governments and independent colleges and universities in South Carolina for COVID-19 related expenses.

That money was put on hold by the Department of Administration because of the Adams v. McMaster ruling. The Department of Administration said, “Based on Admin’s internal review of the ruling and the opinion of Admin’s outside counsel, the conclusion was reached that Admin must refrain from disbursing money to private independent colleges and universities under Act 154 without further judicial direction.”

The federal government has also filed an amicus brief in support of McMaster’s petition for a rehearing in the case.

The Palmetto State Teachers Association wrote on Twitter, "PSTA sent the Governor a letter two weeks ago asking him to spend GEER money on things contained in his initial application for the money- broadband and teacher PD. It is disappointing to see him taking more time on a case he lost unanimously when the needs are so great in SC.

It is unclear if the Supreme Court of South Carolina will rehear the case at this time. This is a developing story.

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