Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: DFI Joins Fight for Education Freedom, Parents’ Rights in South Carolina Supreme Court Case

WASHINGTON—The Defense of Freedom Institute for Policy Studies (DFI) joined with two former South Carolina State Superintendents of Education—Mick Zais and Barbara Nielsen—to fight for education freedom for students in the Palmetto State. 

In an amicus brief filed this week on behalf of Zais and Nielsen in Eidson v. South Carolina Department of Education, the former superintendents argue to the Supreme Court of South Carolina that the Education Scholarship Trust Fund Act (ESTF), established by the legislature to provide scholarships to K-12 students to attend the education environment of their choice, does not provide a direct benefit to private schools and therefore does not violate the state constitution’s “no aid” clause.  The “no aid” clause prevents public funds from going to private schools as a direct benefit.

DFI’s brief argues that the ESTF program makes students and families—not  schools—the direct beneficiary of the grant funds because parents—not institutions—decide where to spend ESTF funds.      

The brief states, “[T]he entire purpose of the ESTF program is to directly benefit participating students by enhancing their educational opportunities, and any benefit to private, independent schools or others is indirect, incidental, and only results from genuine, independent choices made by parents on how best to educate their children…Any benefit to independent schools is contingent on decisions made by students and their parents on where to direct money from individual trust fund accounts established for them under the program. Recipients of distributions from the funds derive their interest in them through the intended beneficiaries of the ESTF program, and have no independent, direct claim to the money. Under the Act, only students and their parents have statutory authority to direct where ESTF funds go, and independent schools must compete with each other, as well as with public schools and various nonschool education service providers, to be selected.”

Zais said of the case, “Education Freedom is the future, and each student, regardless of family income, deserves the opportunity to find the right learning environment for him or her.  That’s why the ESTF program is so important. I will keep fighting for education freedom until every parent in our state can choose the curriculum and school that best fits the needs, abilities, and aspirations of their children.”

Nielsen added, “The important issue to keep in mind is that this is about what benefits the students. We all want every student to have the opportunity to succeed.”  

To read the full brief click here.