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Education Opportunity: A Look at 3 Life-Changing Programs for Florida Students

• ExcelinEd

“Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program was a lifeline for our family, and I am so thankful we live in a state with school choice programs.” – Nina, Tampa-area mom


A Lifeline for At-risk Students

Florida is the nation’s leader in expanding educational options so that each and every student has access to a high-quality learning environment that best meets their needs. Several states have modeled their private school choice programs after Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship program, which serves low-income students and Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship Program and McKay Scholarship programs, which serve students with disabilities.

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship

The Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program was established in 2001 to award scholarships to children from low-income families to attend a participating private school. Funding for this program comes from private, voluntary contributions from corporate donors to non-profit scholarship funding organizations.

The program helps low-income students gain access to high quality educational options. Scholarship amounts range from $6,343 (elementary school) to $6,920 (high school).

A recent study from the Urban Institute found that attending a private school through this program increases a low-income student’s likelihood of enrolling in college by 15 percent. And the longer students remain in the program, the greater the benefit.

More than 101,000 students in 1,730 private schools were awarded scholarships for the 2017-18 school year.

Gardiner Scholarship and McKay Scholarship

The Gardiner Scholarship Program was created in 2014, and provides parents of students with certain medically-related disabilities the ability to customize their child’s education. The scholarship provides reimbursements for needed resources, including therapies, educational materials and private school tuition.

More than 9,000 students participate in this program.

The McKay Scholarship Program was created in 1999, and provides parents of students with disabilities the option to place their child in a participating private or public school of their choice.

More than 31,000 Florida students currently participate in this program.

Eligible Students

Florida Tax Credit Scholarship

  • The average household income for a participating student is $25,360.
  • 69% of students are black and/or Hispanic.
  • 55% live in single-parent households.
  • Eligible students are in foster care or reside in families where the household income does not exceed 260% of the federal poverty level.

Gardiner Scholarship

  • Eligible students can enroll in kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school or are 3 or 4 years old before September 1.
  • Eligible students have one of the specific disabilities or a diagnosis of the disability.

McKay Scholarship

  • Eligible students have an IEP or a 504 plan and spent the last year in a public school or are in foster care or a military dependent.

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