Students in Florida public schools who have an IEP (individual education plan) likely qualify to apply for a McKay Scholarship. This scholarship allows students with special needs to attend private schools or public schools other than the one they are assigned to, either free of charge or at a much lower than normal rate. During the 2010-2011 school year, over 22,000 students in Florida were helped through this scholarship program.
There are times where the closest public school to child’s home is not the best option for him or her. When a child is on an IEP and has special needs, it is very important that he or she is able to have access to all services that he or she needs. In some cases, a McKay Scholarship is truly the difference between a successful educational venture and an unsuccessful one. Parents are able to find the school that offers programs and services that best meet their individual child’s needs. Having a choice in schools can really be comforting to parents of a child with special needs. They can feel better about their child’s education, knowing that they are putting them in a school that is able to fulfill their individual needs and provide them with the education that they deserve.
It is important to know though that not all private schools participate in the McKay Scholarship program. Many do, but not all. It is very important for parents to find out which schools do before selecting a school for their child.
In order to be eligible for a McKay Scholarship, parents of K-12 students in Florida must meet specific eligibility requirements. These eligibility requirements include the following:
- The student must be enrolled in a Florida public school. He or she must have been enrolled in grades Pre-K through 12 during the time when schools fill out their enrollment finance program surveys in October and February.
- The student must be at least five years old by the September of the school year they plan to utilize the scholarship money.
- The student must have an IEP (individual education plan) or a 504 plan.
- Students enrolled in and attending the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind are also eligible as long as they meet the other requirements.
- Students who have parents in the United States military who transfer to a school in Florida from another state or country due to a change in orders may also be eligible for the program. They are eligible as long as the parent as the child was accepted for admittance to a private school that is part of the program and made notification to the school in electronic or written form at least 60 days before any scholarship money was paid.
McKay Scholarships are valid until the student graduates from high school, returns to their assigned public school based upon where their physical address is, or reaches the age of 22, whichever of these three events happens first.
It’s also very important for parents to realize that other events can render a child ineligible for the McKay Scholarship as well. These events include the following:
- Being committed into the Department of Juvenile Justice
- Beginning a private tutoring or education at home program
- Becoming enrolled in the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind
- Receiving any other assorted state scholarships including the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship
- Participating in a distance learning program that is eligible to be funded through the state, online or correspondence
- Being enrolled in a private school but not having appropriate attendance or regular contact with the school’s teachers. Being enrolled in a private school but working from home primarily is not acceptable.
Applying for the McKay Scholarship program is not very difficult. A parent who wants to utilize this scholarship for their son or daughter just needs to go online and file an intent to participate in the program on the following website. Parents just click on the McKay Scholarships link and after that the link having to do with applying for a McKay Scholarship. It is pretty self-explanatory for most people. If additional assistance is needed, parents are always welcome to call Florida’s Office of Independent Education and Personal Choice at 1-800-447-1636.
After this, parents can officially select the school they want their child to attend and file all enrollment paper work needed by the school. As long as intent was made to participate in the program, a student may begin classes at the chosen school when classes begin.
Florida students on IEPs or 504 Plans have a great opportunity with the McKay Scholarship Program. No longer do families have to move to attend the best school for their child or worry about finances to send them to a private school where they will receive the best education. The McKay Scholarship is rather easy to qualify for, is not difficult to apply for, and helps students attend a wide array of public and private schools that they may not otherwise be able to attend. Parents of children with special needs in Florida should really look into this scholarship and all that it can offer their family.