McKay Scholarship Application Guide: Essential Steps for Success

The McKay Scholarship is a prominent educational program in Florida that provides financial assistance to students with disabilities. This program allows parents to choose the best educational environment for their children by offering the option to attend a private school or an alternative public school. With the recent transition of the McKay Scholarship Program to the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program under the Unique Abilities category, parents need to be well-informed about the application process and understand their rights and responsibilities in the program.


This guide aims to demystify the McKay Scholarship application process, providing valuable insights on selecting the right school for your child, understanding financial considerations, and managing parental responsibilities. Additionally, it covers transitioning from the McKay Scholarship to other scholarships and provides support resources for parents and students navigating the process.

Key Takeaways

  • The McKay Scholarship Application Guide offers insights on the application process, school selection, and financial aspects of the program.
  • Understanding the responsibilities of parents and students is critical for a successful experience with the McKay Scholarship.
  • Transitioning between scholarships and accessing support resources empowers parents to make informed decisions about their child’s education.

Understanding the McKay Scholarship

What is the McKay Scholarship?

The McKay Scholarship is a program offered by the Florida Department of Education to provide students with disabilities the opportunity to choose the best educational setting that meets their individual needs. In 2022, the McKay Scholarship Program joined the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program under the Unique Abilities category (FES UA).

Eligibility Criteria

To be eligible for the McKay Scholarship, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Be a resident of Florida
  • Have been diagnosed with a disability, requiring an Individual Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Accommodation Plan
  • Have been enrolled and reported for funding in a Florida public school for at least one year prior to applying
  • Apply for the scholarship before the application deadline

It is important to note that students with disabilities who are in foster care or are dependents of military families may have different eligibility requirements.

Types of Scholarships Available

There are two types of McKay Scholarships available for students with disabilities:

  1. Private School Scholarship: This scholarship allows students to attend a participating private school of their choice. The scholarship amount is determined based on the student’s previous public school funding, their disability, and the cost of tuition and fees at the private school.

  2. Public School Scholarship: This option provides students with the opportunity to attend a public school other than their assigned school. The public school must have space available and be able to accommodate the student’s IEP or 504 Plan.

With the integration of the McKay Scholarship into the Family Empowerment Scholarship (FES) program, recipients can access additional choices within the FES UA education savings account model, allowing them to further tailor their education to their specific needs.

The Application Process

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Check Eligibility: To apply for the McKay Scholarship, parents must first ensure their child meets the eligibility criteria. This includes having a current Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, being enrolled in a Florida public school for a minimum of one year, and being a Florida resident.

  2. File Intent and Confirm District: Parents must file intent for the McKay Scholarship with the Florida Department of Education. This includes providing the School District with evidence of the student’s IEP or 504 Plan and residency.

  3. Application and Certification: Upon confirmation of the student’s eligibility, parents will need to complete the McKay Scholarship application. Once submitted, the School District will review the application and certify the student’s eligibility.

  4. Choose a School: Parents can select a participating private school or transfer their child to another public school in the state.

  5. Enrollment and Funding: After selecting a school, parents must enroll their child and submit a School Commitment Form (SCF). Upon approval, the scholarship funds will be disbursed directly to the chosen school.

Required Documentation

  • Proof of Florida residency, such as a utility bill, lease agreement, or mortgage statement.
  • Current IEP or 504 Plan for the student.
  • Completed McKay Scholarship application and School Commitment Form.

Deadlines and Important Dates

  • Intent filing: The intent to apply for the McKay Scholarship must be filed with the School District before September 1.
  • Application submission: Parents should submit their application as soon as the student is confirmed eligible.
  • School enrollment: It is important to enroll the student in the chosen school and submit the School Commitment Form by the deadline provided by the scholarship program or the school.

By following these guidelines and adhering to deadlines, parents can help ensure a successful McKay Scholarship application process for their child.

Choosing the Right School


Public vs. Private Schools

When considering the McKay Scholarship for your child, it is essential to understand the differences between public and private schools. Public schools are funded by the government and offer education at no cost to families. They are subject to state and federal regulations and testing requirements.

On the other hand, private schools do not receive government funding and typically charge tuition fees. These schools have more freedom in their curriculum choices and often provide specialized programs or a unique learning environment. Private schools accepting McKay Scholarships often cater to students with disabilities, offering tailored support and services.

Considering Education Quality and Curriculum

When selecting the right school for your child, consider factors such as the quality of education, the school’s curriculum, and how well it aligns with your child’s needs. Education quality can be evaluated by examining factors like:

  • Student-teacher ratios
  • Teacher qualifications
  • Facilities and resources
  • School performance and outcomes

Curriculum is another crucial aspect to consider. McKay Scholarship recipients have the opportunity to attend either a participating private school or another public school that better suits their needs. When comparing schools, research the school’s curriculum and how well it caters to your child’s specific learning needs. Many schools offer a handbook, which outlines their approach to special education, services offered, and other essential information.

It is also worth exploring the option of charter schools. These are publicly-funded schools that operate independently of the public school system, often offering innovative and specialized programs. Charter schools must adhere to state and federal regulations but usually have more flexibility in their curriculum and educational approaches.

In addition to school choice programs, the Family Empowerment Scholarship with Unique Abilities (FES UA) offers an Education Savings Account (ESA) model. This allows families to further customize their child’s education, selecting a combination of approved services and providers that best meet their needs.

In conclusion, carefully research your options and consider the unique needs of your child when selecting a school under the McKay Scholarship program. Adequate research and evaluation of factors such as public vs. private schools, education quality, and curriculum can help ensure your child receives the most suitable education with the assistance of this valuable scholarship.

Financial Considerations

Understanding Scholarship Amounts

The McKay Scholarship is designed to provide financial assistance to eligible Florida students with disabilities to attend a private or public school of their choice. The scholarship amount depends on the student’s grade level, educational setting, and the funding provided by the state of Florida.

For instance, if a student enrolls in a private school, the scholarship will cover tuition and fees up to a certain amount, which is determined by the student’s Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan. It’s essential to keep in mind that the scholarship amount may not cover the entire cost of tuition, as some private schools may have higher fees than the scholarship amount.

Additional Costs and Transportation

Apart from tuition and fees, parents should be aware that there may be additional costs associated with their child’s education. These may include:

  • Uniforms: Some schools may require students to wear uniforms, which can lead to extra expenses for families.

  • Books and Supplies: Depending on the educational setting, parents may need to purchase books, supplies, or other materials for their child.

  • Extracurricular Activities: If a student participates in sports, clubs, or other extracurricular activities, there could be additional fees for equipment, uniforms, or transportation.

Regarding transportation, it’s essential to note that while some educational providers offer transportation services for students on the McKay Scholarship, others may not. Parents may need to arrange transportation for their child to and from school, which can add extra expenses and logistical considerations. It is recommended to discuss transportation options with your chosen school to determine the best solution for your family.

In conclusion, the McKay Scholarship offers financial assistance to eligible students with disabilities in Florida. By understanding the scholarship amounts and potential additional costs, parents can make informed decisions about the best educational setting for their child.

Parental Responsibilities

Maintaining Eligibility

Parents or guardians play a crucial role in ensuring that their child remains eligible for the McKay Scholarship. One of their responsibilities is to understand the McKay Scholarship requirements and adhere to the deadlines for filing intents and receiving payments.

To maintain eligibility, parents must also ensure that their child is enrolled in an eligible private school for the scholarship. Maintaining good attendance is a requirement, as it demonstrates the student’s commitment to their education.

Parent/GuardianFollow program requirements and meet deadlines
StudentMaintain good attendance and remain enrolled

Engagement and Participation

The McKay Scholarship places emphasis on parent or guardian involvement in their child’s education. It is essential for parents to be engaged and participate in the educational process alongside their student. This includes understanding the private school’s published policies and ensuring that their child adheres to them. For instance, parents must endorse quarterly payment checks to the school and stay informed about their child’s progress.

In addition to financial and administrative responsibilities, parents should remain active in their child’s academic life. Regular communication with teachers, attending school meetings, and staying updated on curriculum changes helps ensure the student’s successful educational experience.

In summary, parents or guardians of McKay Scholarship recipients have significant responsibilities in maintaining eligibility, engagement, and participation. By staying informed and involved, parents can ensure a rewarding and successful experience for their child in the program.

Student’s Educational Rights


Individualized Education Programs (IEP)

An Individualized Education Program (IEP) is a crucial component of the educational rights for students with disabilities. As part of the McKay Scholarship program, students must have a current IEP to qualify for benefits. An IEP is a unique, personalized plan developed collaboratively by a team of educators, parents, and the student to ensure the academic success for those with disabilities such as:

  • Hearing Impairment or Deafness: Students with limited or no hearing capabilities may require specialized support, such as sign language interpreters or assistive listening devices.
  • Visual Impairment or Blindness: Students who are visually impaired or blind might require adaptations like large-print books, braille materials, or access to specialized computer programs.
  • Specific Learning Disability: Students with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia or dyscalculia, may require tailored strategies or additional support in reading, writing, or math.
  • Behavioral Disability: Students who struggle with emotional or behavioral issues can benefit from individualized programs that provide targeted therapies and interventions.

Accessibility and Accommodations

Access to appropriate accommodations is another key aspect of students’ educational rights. Schools must ensure equal access to educational resources and opportunities for students with disabilities. Some accommodations that can support students with unique abilities include:

  • Physical Accessibility: Ensuring classrooms, facilities, and extracurricular activities are wheelchair-accessible or otherwise accommodate students’ diverse mobility needs.
  • Assistive Technologies: Providing access to tools and technologies that can assist students with disabilities, such as text-to-speech software for those with visual impairments, or specialized keyboards for students with limited fine motor skills.
  • Instructional Supports: Implementing individualized approaches in teaching strategies, such as flexible deadlines, modified grading systems, or additional study materials for students with specific learning needs.
  • 504 Plan: A 504 Plan, separate from an IEP, can be developed for students who do not require specialized instruction but need accommodations and modifications to ensure their success in school. Examples of accommodations in a 504 Plan may include extended time on tests, preferential seating, or the use of graphic organizers.

By ensuring the implementation of Individualized Education Programs (IEP) and providing accessibility and accommodations, the educational rights of students with disabilities are protected, fostering an inclusive learning environment for all.

Transitioning from McKay to Other Scholarships

Process and Timeline

The McKay Scholarship Program for students with disabilities is transitioning to the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program under the Unique Abilities category (FES-UA) effective July 1, 20221. This change aims to provide better support and services to students with special needs.

The process for transitioning from the McKay Scholarship to the FES encompasses a few steps:

  1. Familiarize yourself with changes: Be aware of the differences between the McKay Scholarship and FES-UA, and understand how the transition might affect the funding, benefits, and application process.

  2. Evaluation for Eligibility: Students with disabilities who are currently under the McKay Scholarship may need to be evaluated for eligibility under the FES-UA. To ensure a smooth transition, review the eligibility criteria and requirements of both programs.

  3. Timeline: The transition from McKay to FES-UA is set to occur on July 1, 20221. It is essential for students and parents to keep track of deadlines and any additional documentation requirements to ensure successful enrollment in the new program.

Comparing Scholarship Benefits

Comparing the benefits of the McKay transition to FES with other scholarship programs such as Gardiner is essential to make informed decisions about your child’s educational opportunities. Here is a brief comparison of the McKay Transition, FES, and Gardiner scholarships:

McKay Transition to FESProvides greater support and services for students with unique abilities2Check eligibility, evaluation and transition in July 2022
Family Empowerment ScholarshipFinancial aid for eligible students in low-income families3Annual application for new and renewing students
Gardiner ScholarshipPersonal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA) for students with specific disabilities4Application process vary based on the student’s needs and different school boards5

By understanding the benefits, application processes, and timelines for each scholarship program, you can make the best decision for your child’s educational journey.

Support and Resources


Navigating the System

When applying for the McKay Scholarship, it’s crucial to have access to the right support and resources to navigate the process successfully. For families and parents, the first step is to visit the Florida Department of Education website. Here, you can find detailed information about the program, including eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and the transition to the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program under the Unique Abilities category (FES UA).

A valuable resource for gathering more information about the scholarship is the Florida School Choice website. This site provides general guidelines and application details to help parents and guardians make informed decisions.

Finding Help and Answers

If you need assistance during the application process or have specific questions, it’s essential to have a reliable support network. An Information Hotline is available for answering any concerns or inquiries related to the McKay Scholarship. Be sure to reach out to the Information Hotline for timely and accurate information.

Connect with other families who have experience with the McKay Scholarship by participating in online forums and discussion groups. Sharing your experiences and learning from others can greatly benefit you during the application process and beyond.

In summary, the key to successfully applying for the McKay Scholarship is seeking support and utilizing available resources. Consult the Florida Department of Education and Florida School Choice websites for essential information, and don’t hesitate to reach out to the Information Hotline or join online groups for assistance and encouragement.

Verification and Review

Annual Procedures

Under the McKay Scholarship Program, parents and private schools are required to follow annual procedures for verification and review. This includes ensuring that the student’s eligibility is maintained and that private schools comply with program rules and requirements. Each year, the Florida Department of Education conducts a thorough review process to verify the eligibility of the recipient students and the compliance of their enrolled schools.

Attendance verification, a crucial part of the annual procedures, is conducted prior to the November, February, and April payments. The official website offers guidelines to help parents and schools understand their options and responsibilities within the program.

Responding to Audits and Checks

All participating private schools are subject to audits and checks by the Florida Department of Education. This process ensures that the schools adhere to the program’s provisions and properly utilize scholarship funds. It is essential for private schools to maintain accurate and up-to-date records, including student eligibility, attendance, and expenditure documentation.

In case of an audit or check, private schools must respond promptly and cooperate fully with the Department of Education. Failing to comply with these requirements may result in sanctions or even the school’s removal from the McKay Scholarship Program. Therefore, timely response to audits and checks is crucial for both the private school and recipient students to continue benefiting from the program.

It is important for parents to regularly check the status of their child’s McKay Scholarship and stay informed about the program’s requirements. By being proactive, the scholarship experience can be more successful and beneficial for the student’s educational journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the eligibility criteria for the McKay Scholarship?

To be eligible for the McKay Scholarship, students must meet specific requirements, such as having a an active Individual Educational Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, being enrolled in a Florida public school, and attending the public school for at least one year prior to applying for the scholarship. Additionally, students should have a documented need for special education services due to a disability recognized by the Florida Department of Education.

How do I apply for the McKay Scholarship in Florida?

To apply for the McKay Scholarship in Florida, parents or guardians must first file an online intent to participate in the program on the Florida Department of Education website. After filing the intent, parents can check the application status on the same website. The application process may vary slightly depending on the choice of public or private school. Carefully follow the steps provided on the OCPS McKay Scholarship website for detailed instructions.

What is the coverage amount for students with a 504 plan under the McKay Scholarship?

The amount of funding for students with a 504 plan under the McKay Scholarship depends on several factors, such as the student’s disability, the services provided in their IEP or 504 plan, and the base student allocation in their district. The exact coverage amount can be determined by the Florida Department of Education.

Can the McKay Scholarship be used to fund college education?

The McKay Scholarship is specifically designed to fund K-12 education for students with disabilities. It cannot be used to fund college education. Students seeking financial assistance for college are encouraged to explore other scholarship programs, grants, or financial aid opportunities.

What is the contact information for McKay Scholarship assistance?

For assistance with the McKay Scholarship, the Florida Department of Education can be consulted. Additional resources and contact information can also be found on the OCPS McKay Scholarship website.

What distinguishes the McKay Scholarship from the Gardiner Scholarship?

While both the McKay Scholarship and the Gardiner Scholarship are designed to support students with disabilities in Florida, they differ in their eligibility criteria, funding options, and services offered. The McKay Scholarship is available for students with an IEP or 504 plan and can be used to help pay tuition at a private school or to transfer to another public school. On the other hand, the Gardiner Scholarship is designed for students with specific diagnosed disabilities and offers an education savings account, which can be used to customize an individual educational program for the student, including various educational services and products.


  1. McKay Transition to FES: FAQs – Florida Department of Education 2

  2. McKay Scholarship – Florida Department of Education

  3. Family Empowerment Scholarship – Florida Department of Education

  4. Gardiner Scholarship – Florida Department of Education

  5. School Board – Florida Department of Education

Helpful Resources

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