Backers lay groundwork for South Dakota's school choice law

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Parents looking for help sending their children to private school may soon be able to tap a state-backed scholarship program.

South Dakota's new school choice law takes effect next month. It mimics other states' programs by offering some businesses tax credits in exchange for donations to private-school scholarships.

In South Dakota, insurance companies are eligible for the program, which was approved this year against the protests of public education advocates.

Program supporters established a nonprofit to dole out the scholarships when funds become available.

Republican Sen. Phyllis Heineman, a supporter, says backers hope to award at least some scholarships for the fall.

Critics argue the state has an obligation to provide public education and that the measure could unconstitutionally direct public funds to religious schools.

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