McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities

Originally created in 1999 by the Florida Department of Education, the McKay Scholarship Program was intended for Florida students with disabilities to attend an eligible public or private school of their choice. Within this program, a parent of an eligible special needs student may choose to transfer the student to another eligible school.

Students with disabilities include K-12 students who are documented as having an intellectual disability; a speech or language impairment; a hearing impairment, including deafness; a visual impairment, including blindness; a dual sensory impairment; an orthopedic impairment, other health impairment, an emotional or behavioral disability; a specific learning disability, including, but not limited to, dyslexia, dyscalculia, or developmental aphasia; a traumatic brain injury; a developmental delay; or autism spectrum disorder.

Under the McKay Scholarship Program, students with disabilities have the following options.

  • Attendance at another public school within the district;
  • Attendance at an eligible public school in an adjacent district that has space and provides the services identified in the student’s individual education plan or 504 accommodation plan; or
  • Attendance at an eligible private, sectarian or nonsectarian, school.

The scholarship shall remain in effect until the student returns to a public school, graduates from high school, or reaches the age of 22 – whichever occurs first.

A student in a private school on McKay Scholarship can return to public school using the McKay Scholarship public school option. However, the parent must notify the district prior to doing so. The school district will determine what public school options are available to the student after receiving the request. A student who exercises this choice will need to reestablish eligibility by being in a school year’s October and February student survey before being eligible again for the private school option of the McKay Scholarship.

Parents who wish to transfer a student to another public school under the public school option of the McKay Scholarship Program must file a notice of intent expressing their desire to participate in the scholarship program. Parents should then contact their local district ESE office for further assistance and direction.

If a student is already enrolled in the McKay Scholarship Program and attending a participating private school, then a new intent is not necessary. At the end of each school year the private school must re-enroll the student for the coming year. In order to be eligible for the first payment of the next school year, a student must be enrolled by a participating private school by August 2nd.

If your child is currently enrolled in a public school with the McKay Scholarship, then contact your school district office about continuing in the public school program.

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Non-public school educational programs are not regulated, controlled, approved, or accredited by the Florida Department of Education, therefore, the scholarship provider only has limited information on the curriculum, services, or programs offered by these private schools. In choosing a participating private school, the McKay Scholarship provider is unable to recommend a private school that will be best suited to meet a specific student’s needs. However, their list of considerations when choosing a private school may be helpful.

McKay Scholarship Requirements

Any parent of a public school student with a disability who has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 accommodation plan may receive a McKay Scholarship if the student meets the following requirements:

  • The student has spent the prior school year in attendance at a Florida public school (the student was enrolled and reported by a Florida school district for funding during the receding October and February FTE surveys in Pre-K through grade 12), or
  • The student was enrolled and reported for funding by the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind during the preceding October and February student membership surveys in kindergarten through grade 12, or
  • The student received services under the Specialized Instructional Services (SIS) program during the previous school year and has a current IEP developed by the local school board in accordance with State Board Rule or a 504 accommodation plan, or
  • The student is a foster child or is a dependent child of a member of the United States Armed Forces who transfers to Florida from out of state due to a parent’s permanent change of station orders, and
  • The parent has notified the school district in a manner that creates a written or electronic record of the notification (this is done by filing intent on the School Choice website) at least 60 days prior to the date of the first scholarship payment, and
  • The parent has obtained acceptance for admission of the student to a private school that is eligible for the program.

First-year kindergarteners may be eligible for the McKay Scholarship Program provided that the student have been either enrolled and reported for funding in a Florida public school during the previous school year’s October and February Florida Education Finance Program surveys, or reported by the Office of Early Learning as receiving services through the Specialized Instructional Services program. The student must also be 5 years old by September 1 of the school year in which he/she intends to use the scholarship.

Students with a “gifted only” designation and an Eligibility Plan (EP), and those who are listed as hospital/homebound only, are not eligible for the McKay Scholarship. Students that have an IEP for hospital/homebound must also have a second exceptionality on the IEP showing that if the child were not in the hospital/homebound program and were enrolled in a Florida public school that the child would still require extra services. This can also be shown with a 504 Plan.

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As a McKay Scholarship recipient, a student will not lose eligibility if they receive services through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR). Services provided through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation do not conflict with the regulations of the McKay Scholarship program because VR services are not funded through the school district.

A McKay Scholarship can be forfeited when a parent:

  • Refuses to restrictively endorse the scholarship payment to the appropriate school for deposit into the account of the participating school as required by s.1002.39(5)(f), F.S.;
  • Enrolls or re-enrolls the student in a public school.

A student can lose eligibility for a scholarship of he/she is enrolled in a DJJ commitment program for longer than 21 days. Also, a student is not eligible while he/she is:

  • Receiving a Florida Tax Credit Scholarship
  • Participating in a home education program
  • Participating in a private tutoring program pursuant to s.1002.43
  • Participating in a virtual school, correspondence schools, or distance learning program that receives state funding unless the participation is limited to no more than two courses per year
  • Enrolled in the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind

Filing Intent to Participate in the McKay Scholarship Program

Parents may file intent to participation in the McKay Scholarship Program on the www.floridaschoolchoice.org website by clicking on the McKay Scholarship link, selecting the “Parents” button, and then the link titled “Apply for a McKay Scholarship” located on the quick navigation bar on the left-hand side of the screen. If additional assistance is needed, parents may contact the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice at 1-800-447-1636.

Military parents may use the military waiver option by requesting the waiver within a year of relocating to Florida. A copy of the Permanent Change of Station Orders must accompany the request. To apply, complete the Military Waiver Request Form and send the office a copy of your Permanent Change of Station Orders. Also send the student’s IEP or 504 plan to the district McKay office for the county in which you will be residing. Deadlines apply regarding the amount of funding the child may be eligible for in the first year.

Foster parents of a child with an IEP or 504 Plan who are unable to file intent by the usual method can use the foster intent form. Additional documentation will be required. Contact the office at 800-447-1636 for more information.

You can go to the McKay Scholarship login page by selecting “Secured Login” on the McKay Scholarships page.

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McKay Scholarship Amount and Deadline

The amount of the scholarship is equal to the amount the student would have received in the public school to which the student is assigned or the amount of the private school’s tuition and fees, whichever is less. Scholarship amount may not cover the full costs of private school. Parents are responsible for any tuition or fees above the scholarship amount.

Calculations are made based on the student’s IEP or 504 Plan and the services provided by the district. Based in the type and frequency of the services offered by the district, a matrix number is developed and used to determine the student’s funding level.

The funding amounts for the various matrix levels are set annually by the Florida state government, and may vary from year to year. Below is the McKay Scholarship amount matrix 2019-2020 along with the deadlines.

If you filed intent by:

July 3 Sept 2 Dec 3 Jan 31

Your child must be enrolled by:

Aug 2 Oct 2 Jan 2 Mar 2

For the school to receive payment on:

Sept 1

Nov 1 Feb 1

Apr 1

Maximum scholarship amount for the rest of the school year: 100% 75% 50%

25%

Payment period: July 1-Sept 30 Oct 1-Dec 31 Jan 1-Feb 28

Mar 1-June 30

Please note that the McKay Scholarship deadlines for filing a parental intent and private school enrollment are statutory deadlines. The Department cannot make exceptions if these deadlines are missed. Failure to complete attendance verification will result in a postponement of scholarship payments until the next scheduled payment period. Private schools participating in the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program must meet the deadlines set by the Scholarship Funding Organizations in order to receive payment.

Scholarship payments are made in equal installments four times a year (September 1, November 1, February 1, and April 1). Payment is made by individual warrant (check) payable to the student’s parent or guardian and mailed by the DOE to the chosen private school for deposit into the private school’s account. The parent must restrictively endorse the warrant to the private school for deposit into the private school’s account. Eligibility for payment is based in verification of the student’s initial admission acceptance and continued enrollment and attendance at the private school.

McKay Scholarship Program Contacts

Inquiries regarding the McKay Scholarship Program may be sent by email to schoolchoice@fldoe.org or by fax to (850) 245 0875.

The McKay Scholarship phone number is (850) 245 0502. You may also reach out by calling the toll free hotline at (800) 447 1636.

Visit the McKay Scholarship Program website for more information.

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