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South Carolina

South Carolina First Steps (First Steps) is South Carolina’s statewide initiative for school readiness. It is both a state agency and a nonprofit organization, with a network of 46 subsidiary nonprofit partnerships. These local partnerships leverage state funding to fill gaps in services, connect children and families to services, convene local stakeholders around the needs of young children, and support state school readiness priorities. The First Steps state office also administers the state’s mixed delivery, full-day 4K program.

State Allies: 

First Steps South Carolina • Columbia, SC
Children's Trust of South Carolina • Columbia, SC
Top Priorities for 2021

Expand state-funded, full-day, 4-year-old kindergarten for Medicaid eligible children in both public schools and private child care centers.

Increase funding for SC First Steps and the South Carolina Department of Social Services in order to increase the availability of programs that support young children and their families at the local level.

Request recurring funding to support the system building efforts of the Early Childhood Advisory Council.

South Carolina’s 2020 Early Childhood Policy Landscape and Progress:

Estimated FY20 State General Fund Expenditures

House (R), Senate (R),
Governor (R)

236,137 Young Children (0-8) are Below 200% FPL

South Carolina entered the current session with a significant budget surplus and momentum in support of early childhood. Allies secured support to expand First Steps 4K into all 46 counties, doubling the number of slots for eligible 4-year-olds statewide. When COVID-19 shut down the General Assembly, the senate had not taken a vote, and the funds remain unallocated.

*Early childhood policy progress in a state is the result of numerous efforts — by those listed on this page and many others — who worked both independently and collaboratively to achieve wins for young children.

Download the full 50-State report.

The Alliance for Early Success 2020 50-State Progress Report on Early Childhood Policy expands state data (disaggregating low-income young children by race) and provides high-level state policy trend analysis for the nation as a whole. Click the cover to go to the download page.

State Budget Data: National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), “Table 4: Fiscal 2020 State General Fund, Estimated (Millions); The Fiscal Survey of the States.” Spring, 2020
Low-Income Data (including disaggregation by race): National Center for Children in Poverty, “NCCP Analysis of ACS 1-year Estimates—Public Use Microdata Sample, 2019.”
State Action Data: Provided by state advocates, October-November 2020, with analysis and synthesis by Frontera Strategy for Alliance for Early Success, “Protecting Progress and Investing in Scale: The 2020 50-State Progress Report on Early Childhood Education Policy.”
Additional State Actions: Mincic, Melissa,  Early Care and Education, State Budget Actions, Fiscal Year 2020. National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), October 2020. 

The Alliance for Early Success is achieving large-scale, long-lasting change for the state’s young children by providing our allies with powerful advantages that help them shape South Carolina early childhood policy.