July 9, 2017 Print

The Foundation for Excellence in Education, or ExcelinEd, an Atlas Network partner based in Florida, has worked to promote reform across the United States in education by developing policies that increase educational opportunities, college and career readiness, and school accountability, and supporting them through ExcelinEd in Action, the 501(c)(4) advocacy arm of the organization. ExcelinEd recently saw great success in its efforts pushing to include school choice and accountability funding in South Carolina’s 2017-2018 budget. Highlights of the budget include the addition of $1 million in funding for Exceptional Needs Credit Scholarship (Exceptional SC), a tax-credit scholarship program dedicated to helping students with special needs attend credentialed private schools via tuition tax credits and scholarships; the renewal of a separate $2 million tuition tax credit for parents of these students; and the renewal of a $3 million incentive for teachers with students who are working towards an industry recognized credential.  

“ExcelinEd worked with the South Carolina-based Palmetto Promise Institute on a variety of policies that will provide families with more options for their children’s’ education, improve student readiness for college and the workplace, and hold schools more accountable for student outcomes,” said ExcelinEd Vice President of Policy Lizzette Reynolds.  

Impacts of these achievements are already being noticed by families throughout South Carolina. The Hollingsworth family adopted their autistic grandson Cody when he was in kindergarten, “knowing that he would have special needs for a long time,” said Cody’s grandmother, Delaine Hollingsworth. After searching for the right school, the Hollingsworth family found a good fit for Cody — but it came with a price.  

“The cost [of the school] was an issue,” said Hollingsworth. “This would have been a problem, but thanks to South Carolina’s Exceptional Needs Credit Scholarship, Cody receives a full scholarship allowing him to attend the best school to fit his needs.” 

The passage of House Bill 3969 creates a more unified school accountability system and establishes stronger performance indicators for schools, including a 100-point scale, to ensure an accurate assessment of schools’ success in meeting the needs of their students. 

“South Carolina’s efforts to expand educational options for students, promote college and career readiness, and improve school accountability will better prepare students for success in school and life,” said J. Alex Kelly, ExcelinEd in Action National Legislative Director.