Did you know that Florida offers scholarships to help with the cost of attending a private school? Opportunities are available for both income-based and unique abilities scholarships. Whether you are new to the process or have an existing scholarship, recently implemented legislation has created several changes, including expanded eligibility criteria. The best places to find all the details are through Step Up For Students, where you can also apply, and Teach Florida Coalition, where you will find specifics about qualifications and guidance about the process.
According the Teach Coalition website, Florida offers the following scholarships:
- Income Based – Through the Family Empowerment Educational Options Scholarship (FES-EO), students K-12 from low-mid income households receive approximately $7,000 for nonpublic school tuition fees. (See the chart on the Teach Coalition site for a breakdown of eligibility based on household size and income)
- Disability Based – Through the Family Empowerment Unique Abilities Scholarship (FES-UA), students ages 3-22 who have a qualifying disability receive approximately (See the Teach Coalition site for a full list of eligible disabilities.)
Changes to McKay Scholarship: What We Know So Far
For over 20 years, the McKay Scholarship Program for Students with Disabilities has provided scholarships to eligible Florida students with disabilities so they can attend a private school or public school of their choice. This year, beginning on July 1, 2022, the McKay Scholarship program will no longer exist and will be rolled into the Family Empowerment Scholarship. Students currently receiving the McKay Scholarship will be transitioned into the Family Empowerment Unique Abilities Scholarship (FES-UA).
According to Step Up For Students, here are some of the changes families can expect as part of this transition:
- Current McKay students will not need to requalify to participate in FES-UA, but their family will need to select a Scholarship Funding Organization (SFO). An SFO is a vendor that is approved by the state (such as Score at the Top/Score Academy). Families will work with their SFO to indicate their intent to continue using the FES-UA scholarship and to make the transition.
- The FES-UA program is structured differently than the McKay program. It is an Educational Savings Account (ESA). This structure allows parents/guardians to customize their student's education and covers multiple expense categories beyond just private school tuition and fees.
- While the FLDOE will continue to have final eligibility determination, the SFO will set up accounts for each student and will disburse payments based on the parent's request and approval.
- Payments will be made to the SFOs, not the FLDOE.
- Payments to providers, including schools, from Step Up will be made via ACH transfer.
- Step Up is creating a new platform for parents/guardians to manage their student’s scholarship account, including the ability to approve payments to providers. This new platform will also make the scholarship experience easier for schools.
Families who have been receiving McKay scholarships will be contacted by the FLDOE so they should make sure their information is current and monitor their inbox for updates. They should also consult with their current school counselors/advisors, who will be receiving information as the transition unfolds.
Applications Open in February
Scholarship applications for the 2022-2023 school year open in February 2022. This is a great time to start researching and finding out more about your options. Make sure to add your email to the Step Up For Students list so you can receive information and get notified when the official application opens.
The experts at Score Academy are also available to offer guidance and support. Please contact us so we can connect you with an expert who can help.