Refundable Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children
- Individual Tax Credit/Deduction
- Enacted 2015
- Launched 2015
The South Carolina Refundable Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children is a refundable tax credit program, meaning parents or guardians of students with special needs can be reimbursed, through a tax credit, for what they paid out of pocket for private school tuition. Learn more about the program, including eligibility, funding, regulations, legal history and more.
We do not administer this program.
Participating Taxpayers (2020)
of Students Eligible Statewide
Average Credit Claimed (2020)
Average Credit as a Percentage of Public School Per-student Spending
South Carolina’s Refundable Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children Program Participation
Parents or guardians receive a tax credit worth the lesser of (1) $11,000 per student or (2) their children’s actual cost of attending school. However, if the student receives an Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children Fund scholarship, then the credit claimed may equal only the difference of $11,000 or the cost of tuition, whichever is lower, and the amount of the tax credit-funded scholarship. The total cap on the program is $2 million (although there may be some flexibility based on participation in the Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children Fund program; total cumulative cap for both programs is $14 million).
Parents are eligible if their child has been designated by the South Carolina Department of Education as meeting the federal definition of a “child with a disability” (34 CFR § 300.8). Additionally, a student’s parents must believe the assigned public school district does not sufficiently meet the student’s needs. Students who have been diagnosed within the last three years by a licensed speech-language pathologist, psychiatrist or medical, mental health, psycho educational or other comparable licensed healthcare provider as having a neurodevelopmental disorder; a substantial sensory or physical impairment (such as deaf, blind, 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 are also eligible. Students must attend an eligible independent school.
EdChoice Expert Feedback
South Carolina’s refundable tax credit for students with special needs helps tens of thousands of students access schools that are the right fit for them, but policymakers could do more to expand educational opportunity.
Eligibility for the tax credits is limited to students with special needs. About one in eight South Carolina students are eligible to receive a tax credit. Statewide, less than 1percent of students participate in one of South Carolina’s private educational choice options (including the Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children Fund).
The average credit claimed is about $9,400, which is about 84 percent of the average expenditure per student at South Carolina’s district schools. Tax credits are worth 100 percent of the value of the child’s tuition costs up to $11,000, but only $2 million in tax credits are available annually, which is equivalent to only 0.02 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 special-needs tax credits generally avoid unnecessary and counterproductive regulations.
Rules and Regulations
- Income Limit: None
- Prior Year Public School Requirement: None
- Geographic Limit: Statewide
- Enrollment Cap: None
- Credit Value: 100%
- Individual Credit Cap: $11,000 per student
- Testing Mandates: State test or Nationally norm-referenced tests
- Budget Cap: $2 million
- *Limited to students with special needs
- Provide certification that the student has exceptional needs, certification that student was enrolled in an eligible school and proof of the cost of attendance at the eligible school
No legal challenges have been filed against the program.
Refundable Educational Credit for Exceptional Needs Children 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.