McKay Scholarship Expansion – 504 Plans Can Get $ for Private School

If your disabled child has a written school plan giving him or her accommodations (called a “504 Plan“),  that plan can translate into a dollar amount, and you can use that money to pay for private school tuition.  Governor Scott signed a new law expanding the McKay Scholarship program to cover students with 504 Plans, and that law goes into effect on July 1, 2011.  Prior to this expansion, only children with Individual Education Plans (“IEPs”) were eligible for the McKay Scholarship.  504 Plans are named after the law which authorizes them – Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

So, here’s how it works.  On July 1st, go to www.floridaschoolchoice.org and click on “McKay Scholarship.”  Then click on “Apply for a McKay Scholarship.”  Because the law just passed, it looks as though you only have until July 3, 2011 to apply for a fully-funded McKay Scholarship using a 504 Plan.  If you apply after July 3, 2011, you may be eligible for a partial year scholarship – see Messages for Parents for more information on deadlines.

I’m not an expert in Florida special education funding, but it seems pretty clear to me that the amount of a McKay Scholarship for a student who has a 504 Plan will be much less than the amount of even the lowest funding level of a McKay Scholarship for a student who has an IEP. That’s because the amount of a scholarship for a student eligible under Section 504 will be equal to the amount of funding the school district currently receives for the student through basic program funding (known as the Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP)), and will not include what’s called the ESE Guaranteed Allocation from the state, which is only for students who receive special education.  And a 504 Plan is not legally considered “special education.”

Note that any child who uses the McKay Scholarship can only take state funds with them – not federal funds which stay with the school district or state, even if your child is in private school.  Also, if the private school tuition is more than your McKay Scholarship amount, the parent is responsible for covering the remaining tuition cost.  Temporary 504 Plans (lasting 6 months or less) are not eligible for the McKay Scholarship.

14 Replies to “McKay Scholarship Expansion – 504 Plans Can Get $ for Private School”

  1. K. HENDERSON

    What if you have a child who is beyond the 5 year period? We pulled our daughter out of public school in first grade after she had great difficulty, and put her in a smaller private school. We didn’t even know about the McKay scholarship when she transferred to the private school for 2nd grade. When we found out the McKay scholarphio she had missed passed the point of having “applying while still in public school and having been inin a public school the year before”, additionally, in July 2010, when the law changed, she stilled missed the new exemption into the program ,because in 2005 she was still in private school, even though she has been tested and has a 504 plan created for her. Is there any help for a child that falls out of that 5 year period but is still matricualting through school?

    Reply
  2. Monica Belina

    My daughter has developmental disabilities and learning disabilities and so do her twin daughters who are 9.5 years old. They were in public school for 5 years with an IEP. We finally found out about the McKay Scholarship last year and transferred them to a private school designed for their specific disabilities.

    Now… we found out that if we had known more about what should have been included in their IEPs [that their disabilities are permanent], we could have received more scholarship funds which they definitely will need as they progress through Middle School and High School and really could use now for the extra tutoring they desperately need.

    But, I recently heard that we cannot get the amount of their scholarship changed due to the Matrix number set when they left public school unless we put them back in public school from September through April. No way can we do that! They were so traumatized with kids calling them dumb, slow pokes, stupid, etc. that after 5 years in school [and still ending up in 1st grade] one of the twins was still crying at school EVERY DAY. And we had many discussions with staff regarding that situation.

    Do you know of any way we can get the IEP to include the information necessary to get the Matrix number changed without having to put the girls back in public school?

    Reply
  3. AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

    Hi Monica,

    Thanks for your question. Unfortunately, once your child leaves the public school system on a McKay, the scholarship amount is essentially set unless she returns to the public school for a year (at least from October through February) and gets an updated IEP with a higher Matrix level. Really, the only exception is a clerical error where the Matrix level does not match the IEP.

    Hope this helps.

    Best Regards,

    Allison Hertog

    Reply
  4. Jennifer

    In regards to McKay scholarship. My son was in public school in 2011-2012 was unable to continue due to anxiety. Had IEP for 2-3 years, in special education contained classroom for Aspergers/autism. Approved for Hospital Homebound under the public school but was told there was no teacher to service him and I was then told to complete homeschool intent form instead. The 2012-2013 school year due to his anxiety levels, we signed up for Florida Virtual School and I spoke (in length) to the special education department with FLVS and they assured me that they would be able to tailor a program for my son. I submitted all forms for registration including over 100 pages of IEP information and psychological information. At the very last moment before the school year was to begin and waiting for books and final approval in the registration process – I was told that they could not accomodate my son. I had no other alternative but to scramble to find other home enviornment school curriculum. I was not made aware by the County Pulic School when they told me to fill out Intent for Homeschool form that we would no longer be eligible for McKay. We had received McKay elegibility the year before when my son also had to be under Hospital Homebound in 2010-2011 so I assumed we could get it again when we needed it. My son was homeschooled in 2012-2013 due to no other choices and now when he may be able to attend a very specialized private school, I can not afford it and he is not eligible for McKay. Is there any legal recourse? My son is exactly for whom the McKay Scholarship is designed for and yet we can not obtain it.

    Reply
    • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

      Hi Jennifer:

      Please contact me on my cell 786 423 1930. I may be able to help you. I need a few more details.:-)

      Best,

      Allison Hertog

      Reply
  5. Ruth

    Hi, we live in Miami Dade county. My son is a 6 grader in a Charter School.

    Can you please give me your opinion on the best Virtual Online School.

    Thank you in advance,
    Ruth

    Reply
    • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

      Hi Ruth,

      Thanks for reaching out. Choosing a virtual school is pretty complicated because it depends on your child’s needs and goals. I suggest you contact Sue Sommer at evirtualacademy.com. She is very knowledgeable and can point you in the right direction. You can tell her that I referred you.

      Best regards,

      Allison

      Reply
  6. Lila T.

    Good morning,
    So far My daughter has been awarded a McKay Scholarship. But I honestly like the public school she’s in because the staff is very attentive to her needs. I think she would benefit from specific tutoring afterschool but we can’t afford it. Would the McKay scholarship be able to help? We live Southwest Broward County.

    Reply
  7. melinda park

    Our son has an IEP and is currently enrolled in public school in the EBD class . He is in the process of being approved for homebound program due to inability to function in group setting. Just received the letter from the Dr. today and will meet with the IEP tea. Would he be elgible for the Mckay scholarship as he has been enrolled in the public school this last year.

    Reply
  8. Errika Walker-Magra, M.D.

    Hello,

    I have been saying since early kindergarten that something was wrong with my daughter’s learning abilities. They pull her with other “slower” learners and placed her as ESL (since we speak Italian at home as well and had moved from overseas). Fast forward to the 1st grade, despite my continued voicing something is wrong, the school didn’t do anything til it was too late. I had a tutor for her. She told her tutor she didn’t love herself because she could read nor write like the other kids and knew she was pulled aside because she was “stupid”. I pulled her out of school! Immediately took her for private testing and she has a diagnosis “Learning Processing Disorder”. The SLP therapist also suggested OT. Now I have to fight to see if I can get an IEP to have her placed in a special private school as recommended by the neuropsychologist that cost over $14k a yr! Can this be done? Can I get her an IEP with the private testing I had performed as the public system failed her?

    Reply
  9. Errika Walker-Magra

    Hello,

    I have been saying since early kindergarten that something was wrong with my daughter’s learning abilities. They pull her with other “slower” learners and placed her as ESL (since we speak Italian at home as well and had moved from overseas). Fast forward to the 1st grade, despite my continued voicing something is wrong, the school didn’t do anything til it was too late. I had a tutor for her. She told her tutor she didn’t love herself because she could read nor write like the other kids and knew she was pulled aside because she was “stupid”. I pulled her out of school! Immediately took her for private testing and she has a diagnosis “Learning Processing Disorder”. The SLP therapist also suggested OT. Now I have to fight to see if I can get an IEP to have her placed in a special private school as recommended by the neuropsychologist that cost over $14k a yr! Can this be done? Can I get her an IEP with the private testing I had performed as the public system failed her?

    Reply

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