South Carolina law states that alternative programs are for students who, for behavioral or academic reasons, are not benefiting from the regular school program or may be interfering with the learning of others.

To be eligible for funding, programs must submit a plan that includes the school's mission statement, policy for basis of enrollment, and description of how the school will address students' academic and behavioral needs. The description must include strategies for: individual student instruction plans; student evaluation; provisions for a low student-teacher ratio; use of technology; strict codes of student conduct; counseling; gaining strong parental input and support; and ensuring students will adapt to a regular school setting once they leave the alternative program.

A school district must allocate to the alternative school the same funding that the regularly assigned traditional school would be receiving for those students. Districts or consortia can be eligible to receive additional base funding for the purposes of alternative education.

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