The public schools enroll 746,000 students: 53% White, 35% African American, and 7% Latino, with 57% living in poverty, and 6% learning English. The State spends $9,444 per pupil. (Most recent NCES data)
“The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free public schools open to all children in the State and shall establish, organize and support such other public institutions of learning, as may be desirable.” S.C. Const. art. XI, § 3.
“No money shall be paid from public funds nor shall the credit of the State or any of its political subdivisions be used for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution.” S.C. Const. art. XI, § 4.
In 1999, in Abbeville County School District v. State, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that “the South Carolina Constitution's education clause requires the General Assembly to provide the opportunity for each child to receive a minimally adequate education,” and defined the minimally adequate education “to include providing students adequate and safe facilities in which they have the opportunity to acquire:
- The ability to read, write, and speak the English language, and knowledge of mathematics and physical science;
- A fundamental knowledge of economic, social, and political systems, and of history and governmental processes; and
- Academic and vocational skills.”
In 2014, after a trial and on appeal in the Abbeville case, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that “South Carolina's education funding scheme is a fractured formula denying students ... the constitutionally required opportunity” for a minimally adequate education and explained that the resources provided were insufficient. The Court also cited approvingly the needs-based and cost-driven remedies ordered in New York and Wyoming.
Amici in the appeal included the League of Women Voters of South Carolina and the South Carolina Conference of the NAACP, jointly, in a brief arguing for high quality preschool and written by the Education Law Center.
The State has asked the Court to end the case, claiming that legislative actions have remedied the constitutional violation. Plaintiffs have opposed that request, claiming that legislative actions were minimal and failed meaningfully to address the Court’s 2014 ruling. The Court has not yet responded to these filings, as of March 2017.