Date of Award

Spring 2021

Degree Type



Educational Studies

Director of Thesis

Dr. Kara Brown

First Reader

Kara Brown

Second Reader

Professor Derek Black


The ideology behind private school choice endures in South Carolina. Arguments for parental choice have resurfaced periodically throughout the state’s history, particularly in moments of “crisis.” The current “crisis” moment is the COVID-19 pandemic, which created a perfect storm for the private school choice movement to gain momentum. When Governor McMaster received South Carolina’s emergency education relief funds, he capitalized on this movement with his proposed SAFE Grants program. His intention was for the SAFE Grants program to provide support through one-time tuition grants to low-income families who have children in private schools. Governor McMaster’s announcement incited an overwhelming media response, with various individuals and organizations reacting to the program. A media content analysis on the SAFE Grants program allows for interesting conclusions about private school choice and education litigation in South Carolina. The following research aims to explore the ways that various media outlets frame the issue of Governor McMaster’s SAFE Grants and the subsequent Adams v. McMaster (S.C. 2020) lawsuit. Major findings reveal that news media outlets represent the public’s understanding of the SAFE Grants as either providing greater access for a child’s school of choice, or as diverting crucial resources away from children in public schools. The use of parental choice rhetoric reflects positively on the SAFE Grants, especially in the context of a global pandemic where education has become increasingly less “one-size-fits-all.” In contrast, characterizing the grants as “school vouchers” holds inherent negative connotations for public school supporters and those wary of education privatization. An investigation of the SAFE Grants issue reveals South Carolina’s unique relationship to school choice and adds to larger conversations surrounding the education policy of today.

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