SC Gov. McMaster to spend $20M on COVID-19 education aid

Nearly a month after South Carolina’s high court rejected a second attempt by Gov. Henry McMaster to spend federal COVID-19 money on private schools, the governor announced new plans Tuesday to redirect nearly $20 million of that cash toward other educational needs.

What he called “targeted grants,” McMaster said he will send $8 million to the state’s Technical College System to job-train 3,100 South Carolinians in areas that including computer and information technology, criminal justice and health care. Another $7 million will be given to South Carolina’s Department of Education and the state’s First Steps program to expand in-person and full-day four-year-old kindergarten day and summer programs for children whose families meet or fall below the federal poverty threshold of 185{c25493dcd731343503a084f08c3848bd69f9f2f05db01633325a3fd40d9cc7a1} or who are eligible for Medicaid benefits.

Another nearly $5 million of the total $19.9 million will be sent to the state’s child-welfare agency to provide education services and tutoring for 600 of the state’s foster care children and other children living in the state’s 74 group homes.

“This is a good day for education and workforce in South Carolina,” said McMaster in his first in-person press conference since he entered quarantined after his positive COVID-19 diagnosis Christmas week.

The money stems from McMaster’s Governor’s Emergency Education Relief, or GEER account — a federal point of money that runs through the U.S. Department of Education for governors to spend at their discretion on education needs in their states.

The Tuesday announcement caps a months-long legal tangle between McMaster and the courts after the governor tried to spend $32 million out of the total $48.5 million account on COVID-19 relief for private schools and millions more on other private colleges, including $2.4 million historically Black universities.

The state Supreme Court twice rejected that attempt, a decision McMaster Tuesday called again disappointing.

“We are disappointed in that decision and don’t agree with it, nonetheless that is the decision,” McMaster said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) has covered the S.C. State House and politics for The State since 2017. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013. She previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She has won reporting awards in South Carolina.
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