July | August 2017



South Carolina’s First School-Choice Program

During the 2013 legislative session, lawmakers approved up to $8 million in tax credits for contributions made to organizations that give private school scholarships to special needs students, The State of Columbia reported.
Under the new law, beginning Jan. 1, South Carolinians may claim a tax credit for donations made to organizations giving grants to special needs students to attend private schools. The grants for each child will be for the cost of tuition or $10,000, whichever is lower.
The state’s Education Oversight Committee has approved 12 private schools to enroll special needs students paying with tuition grants funded by the state’s first school-choice program. The private schools must be in good standing with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools or the South Carolina Independent Schools Association.
Approved schools must have programs to serve special needs students and regularly test students to measure their progress, according to Dana Yow, the Oversight Committee’s communications director.
The committee has contacted more than 200 private schools about participating and expects the number of approved schools to increase.
Three organizations currently plan to offer grants.
Advance Carolina, a Columbia-based organization, will provide grants to special needs student to attend private schools belonging to the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston plans to fund students attending Charleston-area Catholic schools. The Palmetto Kids First Scholarship Program of Mount Pleasant will provide grants to students to attend private schools that are not affiliated with the Association of Christian Schools or the Catholic Diocese.
The legislature must approve the program again next year for it to continue.
Tennessee will receive $49.5 million this year from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for public housing repairs, according to The Tennesseanin Nashville. The funding, down slightly from $50.2 million received last year, can be used for a variety of improvements to public housing units, such as roofing and plumbing or to improve the energy efficiency of the housing.
Two Alabama boards in August voted to issue $33 million in bonds and to refinance roughly $140 million in old bonds, The Associated Press reported. The new bonds will go toward projects such as an aircraft parts manufacturing plant and an aviation training facility. The refinancing of bonds previously issued to improve state parks and provide incentives for new and expanded industries will save the state nearly $12 million, the AP reported.
The Arkansas Supreme Court in August created a special task force to review portions of the state Rules of Civil Procedure, according to The Associated Press. The newly created panel was formed after legislators’ unsuccessful effort place an amendment on the ballot that would have changed the state’s constitution to allow the legislature to write rules for civil cases. The nine-member panel will submit a report by Dec. 31.
A Mississippi legislative task force in August presented a proposal that would raise $700 million in new taxes to fund highway and bridge maintenance, The Clarion-Ledger reported. Taxes on gas, diesel, car tags and titles, residential utilities and tires would increase under the proposal. If passed, it would be the largest tax increase for state consumers since the sales tax was raised in the early 1990s.
The number of high school graduates in North Carolina is on the rise. In 2013, 82.5 percent of the state’s public high school students graduated in four years, according to The News & Observerin Raleigh. This year’s numbers are up 2 percentage points over the 80.4 percent graduation rate in 2012. The state’s high school graduation rate has increased by 14.2 percent over the past seven years, due to efforts such as increased career and technical programs and early-college programs.