COLUMBIA, South Carolina (WSPA) – The South Carolina House has approved an amended version of a bill that would create a program that allows the use of public funds for private school tuition.

The bill passed the South Carolina Senate back in March.

The House changed the bill Tuesday. It got a third reading Wednesday and is headed back to the Senate.

The amended bill would establish a three-year pilot program that sets aside $75 million from the state’s Contingency Reserve Fund. Up to 5,000 students would be able to get a $5,000 scholarship.

The money could be used to cover the costs of private school tuition or the cost of attending another school district or other related expenses.

Certain students in kindergarten through eighth grade would be eligible. According to the amended bill, students who are enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Plan, or Medicaid. Up to 500 students in active duty military families would also be eligible.

Representative Shannon Erickson (R-Beaufort) said, “This is a data-driven choice as a pilot program for three years to see if parents use it or not. If they don’t use the program then we’ll have our answer.”

Critics say public funds should not be used in this way. Rep. Jerry Govan (D-Orangeburg) said, “This is nothing more than a drip-drip option to open up the door for a full use of vouchers in our state.”

Senators can either approve the amended legislation, request a conference committee, or refuse to accept the changes.

The Senate’s version of the education scholarship account bill would set aside up to $7,140 for each student and included students with disabilities. By year three of the program, up to 15,000 would be allowed to have an account.