Yesterday Governor Crist signed into law what appears to be an extraordinary program for disabled prekindergarten children beginning with the 2012-13 school year. The details are not clear yet, but here’s the deal in brief.
If your disabled child will be 4 years old by September 1, 2012 and he or she gets an Individualized Education Plan (“IEP”), which includes “specialized instructional services” (For example, ABA therapy, speech-language therapy, occupational therapy), Florida will reimburse the private therapy provider for a set number of therapy hours. In other words, beginning in 2012 the State of Florida will reimburse certain therapists for a certain number of services provided to your 4 year old until he or she turns five years old. It appears to be a kind of Florida special needs voucher program for PreK kids. It looks like a parent whose 4 year old has an IEP authorizing therapy services will be able to approach a private therapist and get those services without paying for them – the State will reimburse the therapist for their services. This is truly a revolutionary change in Florida – if it works out as planned, of course.
What this new law is not: It does not allow your child in the Florida Voluntary Prekindergarten program to use the Mckay Scholarship to pay for private school beginning in kindergarten even if he or she gets an IEP at the end of their PreK year. If does not go into effect until the 2012-13 school year, It does not appear to allow a PreK student to enroll in a PreK special education class AND get therapies under this program – it’s one or the other. It will not allow a PreK disabled child to get unlimited therapy hours from any provider – the number of therapy hours will be capped and the providers will be on a State-approved list.