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Bill would give parents school enrollment options

COLUMBIA (AP) — A bill allowing parents to send their children to a public school outside of their district passed a South Carolina Senate committee Wednesday.

The proposal has been around the Statehouse before, passing a key vote in the Senate last year before running out of time when the session ended and heading all the way to the governor’s desk in 2007 when it was vetoed by Gov. Mark Sanford because it didn’t provide tax breaks for parents sending their children to private schools.

The bill approved by the Senate Education Committee would create open enrollment for public schools throughout the state by the 2015-16 school year, with some exceptions. Out-of-district students could not exceed 3 percent of a school’s enrollment and schools could turn down applicants if they were at capacity.

If approved, the bill would create a pilot program next year between a school district that gives parents plenty of choices and one without a lot of options. The pilot program would be studied to see if tweaks would need to be made before open enrollment is rolled out statewide.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Sen. Wes Hayes of Rock Hill and eight other senators from both sides of the aisle. The proposal breezed through the committee hearing with only a few questions. The bill specifics that parents are responsible for getting their children to school in most cases if they go out of district, but it does say that low income children will be provided transportation.

“Practically speaking, it’s going to be very challenging to determine the cost of busing those children that meet the poverty standard,” said Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-James Island.

Hayes said the consensus among the bill’s supporters would be to deal with problems as they arise.

The bill also addressed one other potential problem in a state that loves high school football.

“What’s to say when the senior quarterback graduates, that the rest of the football team doesn’t transfer over to the other school who has the new hot shot ninth grade quarterback?” asked Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg.

Hayes responded that the bill requires an athlete to sit out a season after transferring to a new school.

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