Your School Choices

If  your child is in a difficult school situation, you might choose to stay where you are and make the situation better.  I can certainly help with that.  But sometimes a school is just the wrong fit.   Choosing a school for your child is much more than a choice between your neighborhood school and paying for a private school. If you are unhappy with your neighborhood school, you have lots of options – particularly if you plan ahead and particularly in Florida.  Some of them are an exciting departure from school business-as-usual and most of them are free of charge (though you may have to travel outside of your neighborhood).  One of my goals is to make these choices more accessible to parents.

Here are the broad categories of your school choices – Public Schools (in your neighborhood and outside your neighborhood), Scholarships/Vouchers, Magnet Schools, Charter Schools, Virtual Schools, and Home School.  The Florida Department of Education has an excellent website on those choices and others.  Keep in mind that you can also find school information and parent reviews of many types of schools at

Public School Choice

Florida, and particularly Miami-Dade County, have excellent options for parents to transfer to schools outside their neighborhood that are not “overcrowded.”  Parents of special needs students may be able to get transportation to the new school.  Students with IEPs or 504 Plans have to the most flexibility to transfer schools through a McKay Scholarship public school option, but those without disabilities also have the option to do so depending upon your school district’s policies.  Making School Work can help you to understand how this program works and help you apply.   Email us at

Scholarship/Voucher Programs

Florida is ground-breaking in that it offers parents a variety of scholarship or voucher programs to private schools.  In essence your public tax money is applied to private school tuition with these programs.

McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities  Children who have a 504 Plan or IEP AND who have been enrolled in a Florida public school for at least a year are eligible to receive a certain dollar amount that they can use for a Florida K-12 private school tuition.  Parents who want to stay in public school can also use this program to transfer to certain public schools that they prefer to their neighborhood school.  Making School Work can help you to understand how this program works and acquire the full scholarship amount to which your child is entitled.   Email us at

Gardiner Scholarship  – a new personalized education savings account program for parents of students with “low-incidence” (relatively rare) disabilities (including Autism and Downs Syndrome).  Parents or approved providers will be reimbursed or paid for the costs of therapies, tutoring, virtual school and tuition for disabled children who are not enrolled in a public school or using the McKay Scholarship.  You did not need a 504 Plan or an IEP to obtain this scholarship and, unlike the McKay Scholarship, do not have to have spent any time enrolled in the public schools to get it.  More information on how to apply is available here.  Making School Work can help you understand how this program works and help you to put together a comprehensive program of approved services that meet your child’s unique needs. Email us at


Florida Tax Credit Scholarships  Children whose families meet certain low-income requirements are eligible for a dollar amount that they can use to pay for a Florida preK-12 private school tuition.  It can not be used in conjunction with the McKay Scholarship or Gardiner Scholarship.  For more information on how to apply go to


Pre-K Specialized Instructional  Services (VPK SIS)  This is an additional option for parents of four‐year‐old children with disabilities that is available outside the traditional Voluntary Pre-K (VPK) classroom setting. If
your child has a current individual educational plan (IEP) from your local school district that calls for specialized instructional services, you can choose VPK SIS instead of traditional VPK school year or
summer programs.  This voucher CAN be used while your child is enrolled in a public school PreK special education classroom as a four-year-old, but can not be used while your four-year-old child is enrolled in a VPK classroom.

Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are free public schools which offer a specialized theme or academic focus, but which are operated by your local school board.  Often students must audition or try out for placement in a magnet program, such as for the performing arts.  Because these schools are public, like charter schools, they can not turn your child away because he or she has a disability.  If your child can pass the stated admissions requirements of the school, the magnet school essentially must accommodate their needs.

Miami Magnet Directory

Charter Schools

Charter Schools are free public schools which are run independently from your local school board.  So, in theory  they have more freedom to innovate and often provide specialized programs to diverse groups of students.  While charters in Florida don’t have to provide the full continuum of classroom placements that traditional public schools do, they can’t turn your child away simply because he or she has a disability or an IEP or 504 Plan.  This issue can get complicated depending on the needs of your child and the particular charter school, but the bottom line is that they are public schools and can not simply close the door on your child.

Included in the ones in the directories below there are a few charters that I’m aware of in South Florida which cater only to special needs children.  For example, in Dade there’s the South Florida Autism Charter School.

Miami Charter School Directory

Florida Charter School Directory by District

Virtual Schools

Virtual schools are schools (publicly or privately funded) which are based on the Internet, and are generally not housed in physical locations.  Generally virtual school students are educated at home but not always – there are now virtual charter schools in Florida and other states.  Virtual schooling carries with it so many options, options that change virtually (no pun intended) every year due in part to changes in technology and changes in our own conceptualization of education.    The Florida Department of Education makes these options are clear as possible on this site.

Home Education

Home education is a parent-directed educational option.  Some parents prepare their own materials and teach their children, while others take advantage of commercial materials and virtual school options.


6 Replies to “Your School Choices”

  1. Pingback: Make School Work for Your Disabled Child « Making School Work

  2. Jeannie Phillips

    How do you help a child who was diagnosed late with APD he is now a junior in high school.
    Is there any resources for high school students who suffer with this and have not been taught how to adjust. Every year I go through the same aggrivation with the school system and no one seems to know what to do except allow extra time on test. That is not the whole issue here and I can’t seem to get my point accross because they don’t appear to understand APD. I believe my son also suffers with executive dysfunction and I just don’t know how to help him or where to go for help. I would really like to better educate the public school system. Even if I happen to learn of someone who has heard of it, his teachers are usually not one of these people. I suggested a mentor at school to work with him and teach him how to make accomodations that might help him but of course the school says they don’t have that ability. I feel that part of the problem is that they don’t believe he in fact has an issue even though they have copies where I had him test and I continuously send printed information and articles explaining APD. My son is very intelligent and scores above average on state standarized tests but does poorly with remembering, staying focused and is very disorganized. It does not matter how hard we try to work with him at home it is not enough because there is no one at school to follow through with him during the day. The school feels, now that he is in high school he needs to advocate for himself and be held accountable for his work. That is true to a point but when you suffer with short term memory and focusing issues how is he suppose to accomplish this? If he were able to remember to turn his work in on time and had no missing assignments he would be a straight A student even while taking honors and AP classes. Looking for some direction.

    • AllisonHertogAllisonHertog Post author

      Dear Jeannie :

      You’re descrbing a very frustrating situation, which is fairly common. And you’re right, the school probably does not understand or believe in APD. Sometimes you need to educate them, unfortunately. I assume that your son was privately evaluated for APD? If he has not been evaluated for an executive functioning disorder, you should do that as well. Where are you located? It sounds lime you could use an advocate or attorney. If you are not in South Florida, you can find one at

    • Sheila

      My goodness. Your story mirrors mine, exactly, to a ‘T’. It is a shame, but I have, and still do, gone through the exact same issues. My son has the exact same issues. And we have the exact same results.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *