Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children Fund
- Tax-Credit Scholarship
- Enacted 2013
- Launched 2014
This South Carolina program offers up to 100 percent tax credits to individuals and businesses who make charitable contributions to the Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children’s Fund, which provides private school scholarships to students with special needs. Learn more about this program, including funding, eligibility and regulations, on this page.
We do not administer this program.
Students Participating (2020-21)
of Students Eligible Statewide
Schools Participating (2020-21)
Average Scholarship Value (2020-21)
Value as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending
South Carolina’s Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children Fund Program Participation
The maximum scholarship amount a student may receive is $11,000 or the cost of tuition and qualified expenses, whichever is less. Scholarships may be used for tuition, transportation, textbook expenses or any combination of these at qualifying private schools.
Students are eligible to receive scholarships if they have been designated by the South Carolina Department of Education as meeting the federal definition of a “child with a disability.” Additionally, a student’s parents must believe the assigned public school district does not sufficiently meet the student’s needs. If a licensed speech-language pathologist; psychiatrist or medical; mental health, or other comparable licensed healthcare provider has diagnosed a student with one of the following impairments within the last three years—a neurodevelopmental disorder, a substantial sensory or physical impairment (such as deafness, blindness or orthopedic disability) or some other disability or acute or chronic condition that significantly impedes the student’s ability to learn and succeed in school without specialized instructional and associated supports and services tailored to the child’s unique needs—then that student is eligible for this program. Returning scholarship recipients are prioritized for awards.
EdChoice Expert Feedback
South Carolina’s tax-credit scholarship program for students with special needs helps thousands of students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do more to expand educational opportunity.
Eligibility for the scholarships is limited to students with special needs whose needs cannot be met by the child’s assigned school. About 13 percent of South Carolina students are eligible to receive a scholarship via this program. Statewide, only 0.43 percent of students participate in one of South Carolina’s private educational choice options (including the Refundable Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children).
The average scholarship size is about $3,000, which is only about 27 percent of the average expenditure per student at South Carolina’s district schools, though the maximum scholarship values are significantly higher ($11,000). Tax credits are worth 100 percent of the value of the contributions to scholarship organizations, but only $12 million in tax credits are available annually, which is equivalent to only 0.12 percent of South Carolina’s total K–12 revenue.
In order to expand access to educational choice, South Carolina policymakers should significantly increase the amount of available tax credits and expand eligibility to all students. The program could also be converted into an education savings account to ensure that all students have access to the education that’s the right fit for them, whether private school or a customized course of education.
South Carolina’s scholarship program generally avoids unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: None
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
- Geographic Limit: Statewide
- Enrollment Cap: None
- Scholarship Cap: $11,000
- Testing Mandates: State Test or Nationally norm-referenced tests
- Credit Value: 100 percent
- Per Donor Credit Cap: 60% tax liability
- Total Tax Credit Cap: $12 million
- *Limited to students with special needs
- Use at least 98 percent of contributions for scholarships
- Allocate all scholarships to exceptional needs students
- Serve more than one school
- Conduct financial audits performed by a certified public accountant
- May not receive an appropriation of public funds
- Operate as a public charity administered by volunteer directors appointed by House leadership and the governor
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children Fund State Groups
That Support School Choice
Exceptional SC is the new face of the Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children. We are a 501(c)(3) dedicated to supporting exceptional needs students and families in South Carolina created by the passage of the Exceptional SC Law of 2018.
My SC Education seeks to build a strong coalition of diverse community organizations, policymakers, business and religious leaders, students, parents, educators and other South Carolina citizens who are interested in working together to dramatically expand opportunity and options for students in South Carolina.