South Carolina's public schools are obligated to meet the special needs of students with mental and physical disabilities. But the state should not be obligated to provide aid to families with disabled children to help pay for private school education.
A state House Ways and Means subcommittee recently rejected a bill that would have provided up to $4,500 in annual state aid for a disabled student to attend a private school. The measure had been pushed by families who are dissatisfied with the care their children received in the public school system.
The panel shelved the bill amid concerns over cost and complaints that it could weaken public schools. We think both those concerns are justified.
Schools are underfunded already, particularly since they now must rely solely on sales tax revenues to pay for operations. The state can't spare money to help parents pay for private education.
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Determining which families should receive aid also would be difficult. The state can't dole out money to parents of a disabled children simply because they say they are unhappy with the public school system.
Some parents no doubt have legitimate complaints about how their schools handle disabled students. But many parents and educators appeared before the panel to praise the work their schools have done to meet special education needs.
No one can deny that many South Carolina schools have their shortcomings and fail, in a variety of ways, to meet the needs not just of disabled students but of all students. The answer, however, is to fix our public schools, not to use taxpayer money to pay for families to abandon them for private schools.