Education Savings Accounts in SC Legislation

Let’s talk about Education Savings Accounts in South Carolina Legislation. This post has been updated for 2021-2022 Legislative Session. We currently have two bills that have already been introduced in 2020 session H3976. If passed will create “Education Scholarship Accounts.” This funding  is also known as Education Savings account or ESAs.

Before we sound the alarm that our rights are at stake, let's talk about Education Savings Accounts and what problems does the policy try to solve.

This opportunity has been proposed in previous legislative sessions. Over the years, we’ve heard some concerns that ESA’s will affect and encroach on homeschool rights. Before we sound the alarm that our rights are at stake, let’s take some time to find out what ESAs are and what problems does the policy try to solve. It should not come as a surprise to you that the State of SC ranks pretty low for the quality of education. In 2017, we ranked at #50 and in 2020 we ranked at #44.

That’s a problem.

Some children are stuck in the local school where they are zoned. That is the only option for them, because the parents cannot afford private school tuition or private therapies. They can’t afford a home computer or home curriculums to DIY a home education.

That’s a problem.

Education Savings Accounts Solve a Problem

The proposed bill would provide ESAs to eligible students currently enrolled in public schools. Eligible applicants  include children from low-income, military or foster families, children with specific special needs and children who are homeless. With an ESA, parents can direct the state’s education funding for their child into school tuition, books, therapies and services of their choice.

ESAs are a different way to educate than homeschooling. The ESA law is completely separate from the homeschool laws we have. So, those of us who are currently homeschooling and considering homeschooling will not be affected by the ESA program at all.

But, the program expands educational opportunities for those who would not be able to homeschool. ESA legislation has a component that satisfies the compulsory attendance law–so the students would also be exempt from public schools attendance. They won’t be in public school. They’re getting funding to go anywhere else they want to go–and pay for the programs and tutors and buy computer equipment, etc.

You might think of it as a “4th option” to homeschool. In the way the 3rd Option doesn’t encroach on Option 1 or 2. The goal is to give more students a chance to succeed!

As education opportunities change, the line between traditional public school and homeschooling is not as clearly defined. This will bring more families to a DIY educational opportunity. But, with public funding assisting them.

I support this bill as a fair equivalent academic requirement to homeschool academic requirements. It’s optional for participants and service providers. Points to consider about this ESA legislation.

  • Equivalent academic standards required. ESA participants must sign annual agreement to include basic subjects and attendance requirements as homeschoolers in SC.
  • Education Oversight Committee is responsible to oversee the academics and the financial distributions. ESA participants cannot be enrolled in Public School, nor registered with Option 1, 2 or 3 Homeschool Accountability. They could be enrolled part-time or full-time in private school.
  • Service providers (such as schools and tutors) must apply to be approved providers for ESA funding to be used.  Homeschool co-ops and resource centers could apply to be approved providers for ESA’s or could accept ESA families who pay for fees on their own.

Educations Scholarships in Other States

ESAs are already working in other states. Arizona’s program has been going since 2011. Nevada and Florida also have  established ESA programs. More and more states are following this model, with some variations. One of the key points we have to understand is that these programs are optional. If anyone is concerned about the oversight that comes with government funding, they shouldn’t apply for this program.

Program participants are able to access a spending account, kind of like a debit card. There is an oversight committee that reviews and approves the expenses. They are verifying the ESA funds are used for educational expenses. So, participants can’t spend it fraudulently, for example on a pizza party. There would be appeals processes in place to reconsider any expenses that are denied.

The oversight is heavily concerned about the educational expenses. The allowable expenses vary from state-to-state. But, the lists that are recommended in the legislation should be broad to include assistive technology, private (even religious) schools and programs, private tutors, online classes and lots of resources inside and outside the classrooms. And more.

Maybe ESA participants will want to join some of our support groups or enroll in our resource centers and co-ops. They could enroll and pay on their own. Similar to the way that virtual charter school participants might enroll in resource centers and co-ops. If a homeschool co-op, resource center, tutor or consulting service wants to offer services for ESA participants, they can apply to be approved as a service provider. The ESA participant would be allowed to pay the fees from their ESA debit account.

Again, the point is to personalize the education, so that more students have a chance to succeed. It’s supposed to help low income families who couldn’t afford private school or home education curriculum. And also for special needs families who can’t afford the therapies outside of school.

People should be free to find or make for themselves the kinds of education experiences they want their children to have. ~John Holt

ESAs Expand the Opportunities for Success

Nobody wants one program to suffer at the expense of the other. Of course we don’t want Education Scholarship Accounts to encroach on Homeschool rights and freedoms. We also should not want to stand in the way of expanding the rights and freedoms of others.

The goal is to allow more students the opportunity to succeed.

But, what happens if an official overreaches their oversight responsibilities? It’s hard to prevent overreach…though it’s always possible to occur. It’s also hard to prevent fraud on the part of participants. So, there are safeguards in the policies to address overreach and fraud.

For a full explanation on how ESAs work  and how they are working already, read this article Primer on Education Savings Accounts by Jonathan Butcher. It’s only a matter of time before this opportunity is available. When the program is available, we need to be prepared for their questions about to DIY their child’s education outside of the traditional school.

Do you support or oppose this ESA legislation?
Tell me in the comments

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About Kim Andrysczyk

Homeschool veteran, Association Director, coffee addict, sarcasm expert, and accidental blogger. I'm here to encourage you thru the tough times and inspire you toward excellence. If I can make it, so can you!


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  4. […] H3164: AP (and other testing) available for Homeschoolers (Actively/Enthusastically Support) This bill would require public schools to make accommodations for homeschoolers who wish to access AP testing. Includes: PSAT/NSMQT, Pre-ACT, and College/Career Readiness Assessments. These tests are administered during the school day at the local schools. It’s been an ongoing issue for homeschoolers (and even virtual school students) to access these tests. It currently is entirely up to the school’s discretion whether to admit our students. By making it a law, the school officials will have to comply. The wording also states that the fees for participation will be equal to the public school participants fees. Referred to committee 1/12/21 H3976: Creation of Education Scholarship Accounts (Actively Support/Monitor) This bill would provide ESAs to eligible students currently enrolled in public schools. Eligible applicants include children from low-income, military or foster families, children with specific special needs and children who are homeless. With an ESA, parents can direct the state’s portion of education funding for their child into school tuition, books, therapies and services of their choice. It does not affect current homeschool law. ESA participants would be accountable to the Education Oversight Committee for standards of education and approved funds. Individuals and programs may apply as providers to offer services for ESA participants. Read more about Education Savings Accounts: HERE […]

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