There are so many top-notch scholarships available today across the entire world. However, with the constant rise in the need for education, rise in tuition, accommodation, and other educationally related expenses, the available scholarships cannot cater for the plethora of individuals in need of them.

McKay scholarship

Some scholarship providers are common names in the educational industry. These providers are ‘burdened’ with the hundreds of thousands of entries they get yearly and have to put in a lot of work to make their selections. However, some scholarships are bent on tackling certain challenges within the global or national communities and stop at nothing till they solve pressing needs.

One of such is the John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program. Florida’s John M. McKay Scholarship for Students with Disabilities Program was enacted and launched in 1999, making it the nation’s first school voucher program for students with special needs. The organization is an alliance of non-public schools that serve children with special needs. The Coalition work with legislators and the Florida Department of Education to keep the McKay Scholarship Program a stable option for parents who have kids with disabilities in Florida. It is typically left for the parents of disabled students in grades K-12 living in Florida to get their kids on board. Since the McKay scholarship is targeted to a specific sect of students, it is easier to filter through. As such, if you ward is disabled, or you know a family that could benefit from this scholarship, then here are some vital information that you need to know.

Background Information

In an attempt to cater for children with disabilities, the McKay scholarship was set up by John M. McKay in conjunction with the Florida Department of Education. As such, their target audience is for those that are based in Florida. Trying to widen that niche may leave them not reaching the ones that are closest to them in desperate need of help. With the aid of the McKay scholarship, a disabled student may be eligible to attend a different public school or a participating private school.

Over the past decade, thousands of parents have chosen the McKay Scholarship Program. During the 2015-2016 school year, $217.2 million was paid to scholarship program participants. Since 2000 – 2001, student participation in the McKay Scholarship Program has continued to grow. In 2015 -2016, 31,173 students from 1,369 private schools participated in the scholarship program. They take pride as America’s first voucher program exclusively for students with special needs. The niche or target audience may seem small, but you would be amazed to know that 13 percent of students are eligible in the state alone!

By participating in the McKay Scholarship Program, your student may be able to attend a different public school in your district, attend a public school in a neighbouring district, or receive a scholarship to attend a participating private school. Specifically, the student must also be age 5 and not be over age 22 prior to September 1 of the upcoming school year.

The first set of eligible students are those who have been issued an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or a 504 Accommodation Plan that is effective for more than 6 months. Students must also have been enrolled and reported for funding by a Florida school district the year prior to applying for a scholarship. Note that the state will provide a scholarship for the student to attend a participating private school, another Orange County public school (or a public or charter school in a neighbouring district if space is available and where he or she meets the required eligibility criteria.

Eligibility Criteria

To get shortlisted for the McKay scholarship, there are certain eligibility criteria that must be met. To qualify, you must:

  • Be a public school student counted in the prior school year’s October and February FTE surveys
  • Have a current Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Accommodations Plan that is effective for more than 6 months
  • Be currently enrolled in a Florida public school
  • Be enrolled in a Florida public school at the time of your application
  • Meet one of the following attendance requirements:
  • Have been enrolled and reported for funding in a public school for the year prior to which they are applying for the scholarship and enrolled in grades K-12; or
  • Have been a 4 year old pre-kindergarten student who was enrolled and reported for funding in a Florida public school during the year prior to entering Kindergarten and applying for the scholarship; or
  • Have attended the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind during the preceding school year’s student membership surveys (grades K-12)

Also, the following students are eligible:

  • Students with parents in the Armed Forces who transfer to Florida due to a permanent change in orders may also be eligible
  • Students who received specialized instructional services under the Voluntary Prekindergarten Program during the previous year

How to Enter

The scholarships are usually entered into by the parents on behalf of their kids. Applicants are requested to go through the website of the Florida Department of Education in order to apply for McKay Scholarship.

However, Orange County has a set application process for parents for the McKay scholarship. Here is a summary of the details to note and rules to follow:

Parent are first required to ask the following questions:

  • Is the student currently enrolled in a public school?
  • Does the student have a current Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan (IAP)?

The questions basically revolve around the eligibility criteria. Only when the child fits the eligibility criteria, will they be allowed to proceed.

McKay has a well-structured Application / Intent process. It is set out and parents wishing to file intent for a McKay Scholarship must review the following guidelines and then go to the Florida Department of Education website and file their intent. Here are some guidelines:

  • Ensure that the student’s current residential address is appropriately documented in the OCPS Student Management System (SMS) at the current
  • All Public Scholarship requests for first nine weeks must be filed by July 3 yearly. The student must be actively enrolled in a Florida public school on the date the parent files intent
  • Prekindergarten students who are eligible to enrol in Kindergarten for the upcoming school year may apply.

With all these in place, you can get the McKay Scholarship with ease.

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