School Types & Scholarships
Education Scholarships Accounts (ESAs) – Legislation Pending
Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), though not law in South Carolina yet, allow parents of eligible students to apply for an account funded with state education dollars (not federal or local) that allow families to customize their child’s education. Families have the freedom to choose from a list of qualified education service providers that could include school tuition, tutoring, textbooks, therapy or any approved education service that accommodates their student’s unique needs!
An ESA bill has been introduced in the South Carolina House of Representatives with over 63 lawmakers signing on as Co-Sponsors.
Learn more about ESAs here: Education Scholarship Accounts (ESAs): Everything You Need to Know
Hear from South Carolina parents on the needs for ESAs with this short video: SC Families Speak Out on Need for Education Choice Post-COVID
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A handful of public schools in South Carolina fall outside the traditional categories. These special schools are listed below.
For more information on the schools, you may contact the school directly.
- SC School for the Blind Elementary/Middle
- SC School for the Blind High
- SC School for the Deaf Elementary/Middle
- SC School for the Deaf High
- Cedar Springs Academy
Tuition-free online public school programs come in different shapes and sizes: the South Carolina Department of Education operates the statewide South Carolina Virtual School Program and the South Carolina State Public Charter School District has authorized six online charter schools.
South Carolina students can even use virtual classes offered in other states like Florida’s Virtual School. Some schools will assist families in buying the hardware and software needed to support online learning.
Under South Carolina’s home school law, children can learn at home and do not have to enroll full-time in a traditional school. Children may take online classes, use home-based instruction, or attend K-12 and even college classes in various settings.
There are many home school groups and resource centers around the state to help families find great opportunities for their children. South Carolina law provides parents with a choice of three (3) possible accountability options.
Choose the accountability option that is best for your family: local school district oversight, membership in the South Carolina Association of Independent Home Schools (SCAIHS), or participation in a local “third option” association. An explanation of the three options and a list of South Carolina home school associations is available from the SC Department of Education or at Palmetto Family Council.
Although magnet programs in South Carolina vary widely in size and scope, they are typically public schools operated by a district or consortium of districts that teach all subject areas with a special themed focus such as Fine & Performing Arts; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and more.
Designed to attract students from all parts of a community regardless of zoned school district, magnet schools typically have a diverse body of students based on interest in the school’s theme. Teachers are “highly specialized” through specific theme-based training and professional development.
Charter schools are unique public schools that are allowed the freedom to be more innovative in exchange for being held strictly accountable for advancing student achievement. They are publically funded, do not charge tuition and are open to ALL students.
Charters are structured to foster a close partnership between parents, teachers and students and seek to increase parent involvement, allow teacher innovation and create an environment tailored to the unique needs of individual students. This model has made them some of the top performing schools in the country.
In South Carolina, more than half of charter schools are sponsored by local districts, while the remaining schools are operated by the statewide South Carolina Public Charter School District.
Private schools may be traditional or online schools that do not receive state or local funding. Private schools may charge tuition and have a religious mission statement. Some private schools offer scholarships or other tuition assistance programs.
To find a private or religious school in South Carolina, visit the South Carolina Independent Schools Association (SCISA), the South Carolina Association of Christian Schools (SCACS), or the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).
Recently, South Carolina opened up a tax credit scholarship program to help parents of children with exceptional need cover tuition costs at private schools. Learn more about this exciting new program on pages 16-19 of this publication.
Traditional public schools – often called neighborhood schools – are the education option most familiar to many people. They are free, tax-supported schools controlled by a local school district and board and typically students are assigned to them based upon where they live.
What To Do:
• Visit South Carolina’s State Department of Education at for a complete list of K-12 public schools. You may compare school report cards.
• Call your local school and make an appointment to visit.
• Charter schools (pages 4-5), magnet schools (pages 8-9) and many virtual schools (pages 14-15) are 100% public schools. Although they are organized differently, they still must accept all students and are accountable to train teachers and measure student achievement just like a traditional public school.