November 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

The Supreme Court of South Carolina has struck down a school voucher plan promoted by Gov. Henry McMaster (R), declaring it to be a violation of the state’s constitution.

Earlier this year, McMaster announced that he would allocate $32 million in federal coronavirus relief funds under a program called Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) for a voucher plan he called Safe Access to Flexible Education (SAFE). The money would have been used to pay to subsidize tuition at private schools, including those that are religious.

In a unanimous ruling, the state high court ruled Oct. 7 that the scheme runs afoul of the South Carolina Constitution, which bars the state from directly subsidizing private schools.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, our State Constitution remains a constant, and the current circumstances cannot dictate our decision,” observed the court. “Rather, no matter the circumstances, the Court has a responsibility to uphold the Constitution. Based on the foregoing, we hold the Governor’s allocation of $32 million in GEER funds to support the SAFE Grants Program constitutes the use of public funds for the direct benefit of private educational institutions within the meaning of, and prohibited by, Article XI, Section 4 of the South Carolina Constitution.” (Adams v. McMaster)