COLUMBIA, South Carolina — Meeting in person for oral arguments for the first time since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the South Carolina Supreme Court heard arguments Friday over whether Gov. Henry McMaster has the power to direct $32 million in federal pandemic relief funds to private schools.
A central question of the lawsuit filed against the governor and conservative think tank Palmetto Promise Institute in July is whether the funds — the majority of the $48 million in discretionary education dollars granted to McMaster by the federal Department of Education — are considered public money, and how they can be used.
McMaster unveiled the plan for Safe Access to Flexible Education, or SAFE, grants earlier that month at a religious school in Greenville. The governor said the one-time program would cover about 5,000 grants of up to $6,500 for students to attend private schools this academic year and