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K-12 Scholarship Programs

McKay Scholarship Program FAQs

Effective July 1, 2022, the McKay Scholarship Program will join the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program under the Unique Abilities category (FES UA).

McKay transition to FES: FAQs

Definition & Eligibility

The McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program, originally created in 1999, provides scholarships for eligible students with disabilities to attend an eligible public or private school of their choice. 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, an 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.

An eligible student with disabilities has several options available, including:
  • 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

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 preceding 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.

Yes, first-year kindergarteners may be eligible. A student with disabilities must 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 or she intends to use the scholarship.

Students with a "gifted only" designation and an Eligibility Plan (EP) do not meet the eligibility criteria for the McKay Scholarship Program. Contact your public school district about additional public school options that may be available to your student such as a charter school, magnet school, and virtual school programs.

In order to be eligible for the McKay Scholarship, the student cannot be listed as hospital/homebound only. 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.

Parents may file intent to participate 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.

The waiver must be requested within a year of relocating to Florida, and a copy of the Permanent Change of Station Orders must accompany the request. To apply, complete the Military Waiver Request Form and send our 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.

No. If a student is dismissed from ESE or if a student's 504 accommodation plan lapses while the student is still enrolled in a public school, he or she is no longer eligible for the program.

No. The statute states that a student has to have been “enrolled and reported by a school district for funding.” If a student receives 0 FTE, he or she was not reported for funding. Therefore, the student is not eligible for a McKay Scholarship.

Once a McKay intent is filed online, your district’s McKay administrator has 30 calendar days to determine student eligibility. An automated email is sent to you when the district administrator enters eligibility information. A parent can also check intent status using the confirmation number provided when the intent was filed.

To check the status of your intent to participate, go to the check intent status page. The confirmation number which was issued at the time intent was filed is required. The confirmation number is displayed when filing is complete, and is also included in the notification sent by email, if an address was provided.

Eligible students may be able to choose another public school or receive a scholarship to attend a participating private school after the intent has been approved.

Public school option:  Contact your school district to discuss placement.

Private school option:

  1. Review the list of participating McKay private schools.
  2. Contact the private school with any specific questions regarding tuition, curriculum, procedure, policy, transportation, and regulation. The private school registers and enrolls eligible students on the McKay website.

Yes. An intent to participate in any school year expires on April 30th of that school year. Intents filed February 1 or later apply to the next school year. The filing deadline to be eligible for next school year’s first payment is July 3rd. See McKay Scholarship Deadlines for information on the current school year.

If you are the foster parent of a child with an IEP or 504 plan and are unable to file intent by the usual method, please use the foster intent form. Additional documentation will be required;contact our office at 800-447-1636 for more information.

Scholarship Student Participation

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 a 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.

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 your child 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.

Parents 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.

Non-public school educational programs are not regulated, controlled, approved, or accredited by the Florida Department of Education; therefore, we only have limited information on the curriculum, services, or programs offered by these private schools.  Although we are unable to recommend a private school that will be best suited to meet a specific student’s needs, our list of considerations when choosing a private school may be helpful.

No. Private schools are not required to participate in the McKay Scholarship Program. However, participation is open to all private schools that wish to take part in the program, as long as the school meets the eligibility criteria set forth by law.

If the parents choose a public school option consistent with the school board's choice plan, the school district is responsible for providing transportation to the public school selected by the parent.

If the parent chooses a public school within the district that is not consistent with the school board's choice plan or a public school in an adjacent district, the parent is responsible for providing transportation for the student to the selected public school.

If the parents choose the private school option, the parents are responsible for the student's transportation.

No. When students enroll in the scholarship program for the first time, they must wait for classes to begin at the private school for the new school year. Scholarship participants may lose their eligibility if they attend a public school while waiting for their private school to begin classes. Districts are responsible for reporting those students as "returned to public school" students.

A public school district’s obligations to a student with disabilities placed in a private school by his or her parents are different from its responsibilities to a student enrolled in public school. When a student with a disability withdraws from public school, the district is no longer obligated to provide all of the services contained in the student’s IEP.  Districts are required to spend a proportionate amount of IDEA federal funds to provide equitable services to private school students; however, the amount and type of services may differ from the services the student would receive if placed in a public school by the parents. The procedural safeguards for parents of public school students under IDEA are not in effect for parents of students in private schools (with the exception of child find), including those private schools participating in state scholarship programs. Parents of scholarship students are encouraged to take care to choose a private school that provides the curriculum, services, and educational approach that will meet the needs of their students.

Services provided through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) do not conflict with the regulations of the McKay Scholarship program because VR services are not funded through the school district. Therefore, participation in VR services will not cause a student on McKay Scholarship to lose their eligibility.

Yes. The scholarship is 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 if he or she is enrolled in a DJJ commitment program for longer than 21 days. Also, a student is not eligible while he or 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 school, 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.

Scholarship Payments

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. (Please note that the 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 Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan and the services provided by the district. Based on 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. The updated amounts for future school years are usually available at the beginning of July.

To potentially be eligible for the full scholarship amount (100% of your state generated funding) the intent must be filed by July 3, and the student must be enrolled by August 2.

For 75% - File by September 2, enroll by October 2.

For 50% - File by December 3, enroll by January 2.

For 25% - File by January 31, enroll by March 2.

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 on verification of the student's initial admission acceptance and continued enrollment and attendance at the private school.

A McKay scholarship student may take up to two state-funded virtual school courses each school year without jeopardizing scholarship eligibility.