News Release

Southern Education Foundation Submits Amicus Brief Opposing Federal Funding for South Carolina School Voucher Program

ATLANTA, June 10, 2022 (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit) ⎯ The Southern Education Foundation (SEF), a 155-year-old nonprofit dedicated to achieving education equity in the South, today filed a joint amici curiae brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in a case challenging the no-aid clause of the South Carolina Constitution, which prohibits public funding of private schools. At issue in the case, Bishop of Charleston v. Adams, is whether private schools can receive federal Covid-19 relief funding through a private school voucher program.

Governor Henry McMaster allocated federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds to the Safe Access to Flexible Spending (SAFE) grant, a private school voucher program, before the state supreme court struck it down under the no-aid clause. SEF and the two co-signers, Public Funds Public Schools and the Advancement Project National Office, recently filed an amicus brief to support the defense of the South Carolina Constitution’s crucial no-aid provision.

The plaintiffs in the case maintain that the no-aid clause prohibiting private school receipt of public funds, including federal Covid-19 relief funding, was motivated by racial prejudice. The amici brief explains that, in fact, South Carolina’s private school voucher programs were originally created specifically to perpetuate racial segregation in schools and their persistence to this day fosters and exacerbates that segregation. The no-aid clause bars such programs.

The brief describes the history of segregated education in the South, drawing a line from early efforts to avoid integration—including transferring public monies to private schools—to current voucher efforts which both defund public schools and increase segregation. It says, in part,

Private school voucher programs only arose in significant numbers after the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated de jure racial segregation in public schools in Brown v. Board of Education.  That is no coincidence.  The uncomfortable truth is that today’s private school voucher programs “have their roots in a history of racism and school segregation,” as “school vouchers became a popular tool for perpetuating the segregation the Court had ruled unconstitutional.” While proponents of vouchers may no longer publicly express segregationist objectives, voucher programs continue to have significant de facto segregative effects.

“The history of school vouchers and privatization is rooted in efforts to circumvent the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board, ruling that school segregation is unconstitutional,” said SEF President and CEO Raymond Pierce. “Siphoning public education funds into private schools only serves to increase segregation and the education inequities that create barriers to opportunity for Black and Brown students and students from low-income families.”

This brief also highlights the research showing that school voucher programs, like the SAFE grant voucher program, lead to increased school segregation as white students are more likely than Black students to use vouchers to attend private schools. South Carolina’s private schools, like most private schools nationwide, disproportionately serve White students.


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About the Southern Education Foundation

Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation also has a long history of developing leaders in education and was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at

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