Family Empowerment Scholarship: Unlock Educational Opportunities

The Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) is a significant initiative aimed at providing families with greater control over their children’s education. Designed to help parents find the best educational opportunities, the program focuses on offering financial support to families seeking alternative education options, specifically for students with unique abilities. This scholarship program recognizes the importance of addressing the individual needs of students and ensures that families can explore a diverse range of educational approaches.

In the United States, education is often considered a cornerstone of personal and societal growth, and the FES program serves as a testament to this notion. By giving families the means to access resources beyond the traditional public school system, the program empowers parents to make informed decisions about their children’s educational future. The benefits of the FES program extend to private schools, homeschooling options, as well as therapy and tutoring services, ensuring that families have a wide array of choices when it comes to their children’s development.

Through the FES program, families of students with unique abilities can take advantage of educational opportunities that cater to their specific needs. By offering financial support and expanding the range of options available, the program plays a crucial role in enhancing the educational landscape and fostering a more diverse and inclusive environment. In doing so, the Family Empowerment Scholarship continues to make a lasting impact on countless families, and ultimately, contributes to the enrichment of education for all students.


Program Overview

Key Components

The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) is a program that helps families in Florida with children having unique abilities. It aims to provide access to education savings accounts (ESAs), which can be used to cover educational expenses such as private school tuition, homeschooling options, tutoring, and therapies.

One crucial aspect of the program is its funding. The FES-UA is funded through the Florida Education Finance Program, which also supports district public schools and public charter schools. On average, scholars receive about $10,000 in aid, with a total of 69,513 funded students and over $500 million in funded scholarships for the 2022-23 school year, making it a massive source of support for students in need.

Families have several educational options to choose from, including private schools accredited by the Florida Department of Education. This provides flexibility for parents to find the best education environment that caters to their child’s unique abilities and needs.

Program Evolution

The Family Empowerment Scholarship program started as a way to give families of students with disabilities, as young as 3 years old, access to additional education options. It has since expanded its reach to serve even more students in Florida.

The program adapts to the varying needs of students, with per-pupil funding differing according to factors such as grade, county of residence, and public school spending for students with disabilities. For the 2021-22 school year, the maximum per-pupil funding was 100% of the unweighted full-time equivalent amount, $7,612, less the Exceptional Services funding.

With over 7,000 participating providers, the Family Empowerment Scholarship continues to evolve in its mission to support and empower families with children having unique abilities, ensuring they have access to the educational opportunities they deserve.


Eligibility and Enrollment


To be eligible for the Family Empowerment Scholarship, students must meet specific criteria. They should be residents of Florida and eligible to enroll in kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school. The scholarship has two branches – one for students with unique abilities (FES-UA) and another based on family income (FES-EO).

For FES-UA, students with unique abilities can access an education savings account (ESA) to fund tuition and fees for a private school, homeschooling options, therapies, and tutoring. On the other hand, the FES-EO is available to students who meet household income or categorical eligibility criteria.

Some categories that may qualify for the FES-EO include:

  • Students with a specific learning disability
  • Students in foster care

Enrollment Cap

Funding for the Family Empowerment Scholarship is contingent on availability and is disbursed on a first-come, first-served basis. Priority is given to students who received a FES-UA Scholarship or McKay Scholarship in the previous school year.

For both FES-UA and FES-EO programs, families must apply through one of the approved scholarship funding organizations (SFO), which are responsible for determining and distributing funding to private schools. More information about the enrollment process can be found on the Florida Department of Education website.

Scholarship Options

Education Savings Account (ESA)

The Family Empowerment Scholarship provides access to an Education Savings Account (ESA) that functions like a bank account. Families can use the funds in their ESA to pay for various educational expenses such as:

  • Private school tuition and fees
  • Homeschooling curriculum and resources
  • Tutoring services
  • Therapies for students with disabilities
  • Other approved educational expenses

These accounts offer flexibility and customization for families to address their child’s unique educational needs.

Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities

This specific scholarship targets students with disabilities, giving them access to unique educational opportunities. In the 2022-23 academic year, Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities supported:

  • 69,513 funded scholarship students
  • With an average scholarship of about $10,000
  • Totalling over $500 million in funded scholarships
  • And involving more than 7,000 participating providers

Eligible families can apply for this scholarship through Step Up For Students, one of the two scholarship funding organizations in Florida. The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities also offers a range of personalized services including:

  • Access to schools that cater to special needs
  • Various therapy options
  • Specialists in different fields that work with students with disabilities
  • Curriculum customization
  • Assistive technologies
  • College savings account contributions

In addition to the above services, eligible families can use this scholarship to cover tutoring and other educational support costs through the MyScholarShop platform, which connects them to approved providers. This empowers parents to make informed decisions and optimize their child’s education journey based on their unique abilities and needs.

Funding and Support

Tuition Assistance

The Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) aims to provide tuition assistance for low-income and working-class families in Florida. There are no income limits, but priority is given to families at 185% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and those in foster care1. The average scholarship amount is roughly $10,0002, offered by the State of Florida through the Department of Education3.

Scholarship funds are disbursed by Scholarship Funding Organizations (SFOs) like Step Up for Students and the A.A.A. Scholarship Foundation-FL4. The involvement of such organizations is essential in administering the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program and ensuring eligible families receive the necessary support.

Service Providers

The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program works closely with various service providers to ensure holistic support is provided to the students and their families. Students are not confined to a limited list of providers, but the program encourages families to select from approved providers to ensure consistent quality and standards.

Some of the scholarship-funded educational options include:

  • Enrollment in a private school
  • Learning materials
  • Optional tutoring and therapy services
  • Test fees for standardized exams
  • Transportation costs for school-related activities

By offering a wide range of services and flexible options, the FES program ensures that families are empowered to provide the best educational experience for their children.

  1. Family Empowerment Scholarship for Educational Options Program
  2. Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities
  3. Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) – Volusia County Schools
  4. Scholarship Funding Organizations – Florida Department of Education

Choosing the Right School

Available Options

There are various educational options available for families who wish to take advantage of the Family Empowerment Scholarship. These options include enrollment in both private and public schools. When assessing the best fit for your child, it is crucial to explore these options in detail.

Private schools provide an alternative to the traditional public school system. They often have smaller class sizes, and they may offer specialized programs or curriculum that public schools do not. Many private schools also have a religious affiliation, allowing for a faith-based education.

Public schools include neighborhood schools and schools of choice within the public school district. Families may choose to enroll their child in another public school if their current school does not meet their needs.

Considering the Best Fit

When choosing the right school for your child, it is essential to consider several factors, including:

  1. Curriculum: Look for a school that offers a curriculum tailored to your child’s needs and interests. Check if the school uses a particular teaching method, and whether it aligns with your child’s learning style.
  2. School Environment: The school’s overall environment plays a critical role in a child’s education. Visit the school and speak with administrators, teachers, and other parents to better understand the school’s atmosphere and community.
  3. Services and Resources: Assess the resources and services available at the school, such as special education programs, extracurricular activities, and facilities. Ensure the school offers the support your child needs to succeed.
  4. Class Size and Teacher-to-Student Ratio: Smaller class sizes and lower teacher-to-student ratios can improve the quality of individualized attention each student receives. This can be particularly important for students who require additional support or personalized instruction.
  5. Cost: Although the Family Empowerment Scholarship can help cover the cost of private school tuition, be aware of other potential costs such as uniforms, transportation, and fees.

Ultimately, the best school for your child is one that meets their unique needs and provides an environment in which they can grow and thrive. Take the time to explore all the available options, and involve your child in the decision-making process when appropriate. This will ensure a better fit and, ultimately, a more successful educational experience for your child.

Parent Involvement

Informed Decisions

Parent involvement is essential when it comes to family empowerment scholarships, such as the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA). These scholarships provide access to an education savings account (ESA), allowing parents to direct funds toward personalized educational options for their children.

Being informed about the available resources and educational options helps parents make the best decisions for their children’s needs. This includes understanding:

  • Available scholarships and eligibility requirements
  • Private school options and curriculum offerings
  • Therapies, tutoring, and other support services covered by the ESA
  • Opportunities for homeschooling, if desired

With this knowledge, parents can confidently customize their child’s educational journey and advocate for necessary resources, ensuring future success.

Supporting Student Success

Family engagement plays a significant role in student success. Programs like The Parent Empowerment Program (PEP), offered by Families Together in New York State, provide training for Family Peer Advocates (FPAs). These FPAs empower parents through:

  • Information on their child’s rights in the educational system
  • Strategies for effective communication with educators and professionals
  • Resources for understanding and navigating special education services
  • Peer support from other parents advocating for their children

In addition to parental support, families can further contribute to student success by utilizing the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES-UA) to access tutors, specialized resources, and educational materials.

By utilizing these resources and taking an active role in their child’s education, parents foster a supportive environment for their child to thrive academically and socially.

Special Needs Programs

McKay Scholarship

The McKay Scholarship is a program specifically designed for students with special needs such as deafness, dual sensory impairment, and specific learning disabilities. This scholarship is available through the Family Empowerment Scholarship initiative and can be used to help families afford private school tuition, as well as specialized programs and services to meet their child’s unique educational needs.

Eligible students must have an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 plan and must have been assigned to a public school by their local school district. The scholarship amount varies based on the student’s needs and the cost of attending their chosen private school or program.

Additional Support Services

In addition to the McKay Scholarship, there are more support services and programs available for students with special needs. These include:

  • Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA): This scholarship functions as an education savings account (ESA), allowing families to direct funds towards tuition and fees for private schools, homeschooling options, therapies, and tutoring.
  • Gardiner Scholarship Program: The Gardiner Scholarship Program is an education savings account (ESA) designed for students with specific disabilities. It provides funding for educational resources, therapies, and other services, enabling parents to customize their child’s educational experience.
  • AAA Scholarship Foundation: The AAA Scholarship Foundation is a nonprofit organization that administers the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program, including the Unique Abilities program (formerly known as Gardiner and McKay Scholarship Programs). The foundation provides scholarships for eligible children with specific disabilities, helping them access educational services that best suit their needs.

Through these initiatives and various support programs, the Family Empowerment Scholarship strives to create a comprehensive educational environment for students with special needs, enhancing their opportunities to succeed and thrive in all aspects of their lives.


The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) plays a significant role in providing families with more options regarding education for their children. This program assists them in selecting the best environment for their child to thrive, emphasizing the importance of school choice.

With the FES-UA, families receive funding to cover tuition and fees for private schools, homeschooling options, therapies, and tutoring. This flexibility allows parents to create a tailored learning experience for their children. By offering access to additional education options, this program empowers families to make informed decisions while considering the unique needs of their children.

The impact of the Family Empowerment Scholarship is evident in the large number of students it has benefitted. With over 69,000 funded scholarship students and a funding of more than $500 million, the program continues to make a positive difference in the lives of many children and their families.

In conclusion, the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities is an essential initiative that supports families in seeking the most suitable educational environment for their children. By giving families the means and flexibility to make educated decisions, the program fosters a successful and nurturing atmosphere for students, ultimately contributing to the betterment of their communities.

Helpful Resources

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