Tax liability allocated to special needs children in South Carolina
By Michael Aquilano
It sounds like fiction: The government allows taxpayers to reallocate their state tax liability to financially support special needs enrollment in private schools. Well, this is true, and it’s been true for eight years in South Carolina. Its title: Education Credit for Exceptional Needs Children (also known as Exceptional S.C.).
The S.C. General Assembly in recent legislation and our prior two governors unanimously supported Exceptional S.C. Why? Let the Catholic school numbers speak as a testament to the effectiveness of the tax-credit program. Since 2013, Catholic schools in S.C. have experienced a notable increase in the enrollment of special needs students — from eight students to now more than 740. This is made possible first by the grace of God and through appropriate funding from Exceptional S.C. Our Catholic schools have implemented the most effective strategies that serve special needs students around the state, which is why enrollment continues to surge. How could you deny support for this life-changing public policy?
How it works is quite simple. What if a taxpayer owes $10,000 in S.C. state income taxes? Great news: They can allocate 75 percent of that liability to Exceptional S.C. to support special needs students. Thus, the taxpayer would pay $2,500 to the state and $7,500 to an Exceptional S.C. scholarship fund. Exceptional S.C. then allocates funds to an eligible special needs student.
Every year, Exceptional S.C. is legally permitted to accept $12 million to fund the state-wide program. Presently, $10.5 million remains available for South Carolina taxpayers to claim tax credits. As such, more than 3,000 students in the Palmetto State remain eligible to benefit from an Exceptional S.C. scholarship fund for the 2021-2022 academic year. The deadline for application is December 31.
Exceptional S.C. is an exquisite example of a public-private partnership that gives adequate freedom to families and protects organizational values without government interference in the classroom. Hence, our Catholic schools are provided with appropriate resources to serve more students in need, all the while keeping a crucifix on the classroom wall.
The United States is the only developed country in the world that controls a monopoly on education. This matter is urgent. If we as a state truly want to change the future of academics in this state, we must join forces with institutions that strive to meet the needs and protect the choices of every student and family, no matter their zip code or socioeconomic status. It is only fair and logical to suggest that every student learns differently, especially special needs students. Thus, education choice should be protected and made accessible for parents who simply want their child to succeed.
Exceptional S.C. asks that you would consider participating in this wonderful program to provide a quality education for students who most need our support. It is time to support all of our students.
Michael F. Acquilano is the secretary of Communications and Public Affairs for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Charleston in South Carolina and former board member of Exceptional S.C.