More than 2,000 turn out for school choice rally

COLUMBIA—Students, parents, teach­ers and education advocates from across the state met in Columbia recently to rally for school choice in South Carolina.

More than 2,000 participants, including nearly 400 Catholic school students, took part in the rally — a march from the Columbia Metropol­itan Convention Center to the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse. The annual rally, which promoted education opportunities rang­ing from charter schools to home schooling, was one of thousands of events held statewide and across the country as part of National School Choice Week.

“The program was full of A-list celebrities in Columbia poli­tics,” said Michael Acquilano, direc­tor of the South Carolina Catholic Conference. “A slew of legislators came and praised the efforts of educational choice — stumping for more and further expansion of current programs.”

Among the elected officials in attendance were Gov. Henry Mc­Master and State Education Super­intendent Molly Spearman. Gov. McMaster kicked off the event with a proclamation of South Caro­lina School Choice Week.

There are two pieces of legisla­tion vital to the movement in terms of fund­ing school choice opportunities for South Carolin­ians, Acquilano said. One is the Exceptional SC scholarship program, a fund that provides tax credits for parents of special needs children who attend private schools. It currently pro­vides the bulk of funding for school choice measures in the state. Also on the horizon for 2018 is a change to the Future Scholar initiative, the state’s 529 college savings plan, that would allow parents to use funds from the program to help pay for tuition at private and parochial schools.

The South Carolina Catholic Con­ference was one of several sponsors of the annual event in Columbia. Other sponsors included My SC Education, The Palmetto Family Council, SC Charter School Alli­ance and The Palmetto Promise Institute.

By Chip Lupo / Special to The Miscellany

Top photo, provided: Schools from around the diocese sent students, teachers, parents and principals to the School Choice Rally held at the Township Auditorium in Columbia. Among them were Karen Luzzo, principal of Holy Trinity School in Longs, and her group, pictured here from a 2017 file photo.