Florida Schools’ McKay Scholarship Program Offers Alternative School Choices to Students with Disabilities

Written by Patricia Hawke for Schools K-12

The McKay Scholarship Program of the Florida schools offers parents and their children with disabilities the option to attend the public or private school of their choice. Florida schools students in grades kindergarten through high school, who are mentally handicapped, speech and language impaired, deaf or hard of hearing, visually impaired, dual sensory impaired, physically impaired, emotionally handicapped, specific learning disabled, hospitalized or homebound, or autistic may be eligible for this program. This allows parents who are dissatisfied with the educational progress of their children with disabilities to request their children be enrolled in and attend schools that better suit the needs of the students.

To be eligible, the Florida schools student must meet the following requirements:

  • Has one of the above mentioned disabilities;
  • Has attended a Florida public school in the previous year (this requirement is waived for students transferring into the state with a parent of the Armed Forces, who has moved due to change of station orders); and
  • Has an Individual Education Plan (IEP).

According to the Florida schools, the average value of a McKay scholarship is $6,114 annually. Parents and their children may take advantage of this Florida schools program from kindergarten through high school. There is no time use limit on the scholarship.

Transportation for the Florida schools student varies, depending upon the selected school. The school district provides transportation if the child transfers to another school within the same district of his or her prior year and is consistent with the district’s school choice plan.  Parents are responsible for providing transportation and its cost, when:

  • The chosen public school is not consistent with the district’s school choice plan, even though it is within the same district;
  • The chosen public school is within an adjacent district and offers the student’s IEP services; or
  • The chosen school is a private school.

The Florida schools’ McKay Scholarship Program is funded, using the per student expenditure amount for each individual child (including the costs to accommodate the disability) OR the cost of tuition and fees for the private school — whichever is less. The program requires no additional state funding by the Florida schools

There are currently 703 private schools participating in the Florida schools scholarship program, though not all private schools are eligible or wish to participate.