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Paying for Public Preschool in South Carolina?

More parents in South Carolina may now find themselves paying tuition to send their 4-year-olds to public preschool.

During wrangling over state spending for the fiscal year starting July 1, lawmakers this week eliminated a provision that would have banned public school districts from charging tuition for preschool programs for 4-year-olds, according to a news report.

South Carolina doesn't mandate preschool for 4-year-olds, so school districts aren't required to offer programs. At least one school charges $150 per week for its program, according to the news report.

The legislators' action doesn't seem to bode well for the state's efforts to provide access to preschool, for which South Carolina had already received a failing grade this past spring in a national report.

The 2011 State Preschool Yearbook produced by the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University noted that South Carolina spent "less than any other state per child in 2010-2011 to reach the bottom of all 39 states supporting pre-K programs."

Institute Director Steve Barnett described the state as "stuck in a sand-trap" that hurt its commitment to provide funding and high-quality programming. South Carolina "would be well-served to prioritize funding pre-K at an adequate level to provide high-quality programs for 3- and 4-year-olds. Its investment now in high-quality pre-K will pay dividends in the long run, including improvements in literacy, K-12 results, and workforce readiness for a competitive economy and capable military," he said.

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