Special Needs (Unique Abilities) Scholarship

Please note: We are quickly reaching the maximum number of Gardiner Scholarships available for the 2018-19 school year. In order for Step Up to evaluate if there are remaining scholarships available, all students found eligible for the Gardiner Scholarship program will be placed on a wait list beginning on Monday, July 30. Students will be moved from the wait list based on time and date of eligibility as scholarships are available.

We encourage families to continue to complete and submit your application as soon as possible.

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The Gardiner Scholarship program helps parents individualize the educational plans for their children with certain special needs was named the Gardiner Scholarship in January of 2016. The name honors Florida Senate President Andy Gardiner, who led the legislative effort to create the program, and his family. Gardiner and his wife Camille have championed the cause of children with unique abilities for many years. The Gardiners have two daughters and a son, Andrew, who has Down syndrome.

A different kind of scholarship: The Gardiner Scholarship is different than other state scholarships in that it allows parents to personalize the education of their children with unique abilities by directing money toward a combination of programs and approved providers. These include schools, therapists, specialists, curriculum, technology – even a college savings account.

The Gardiner Scholarship amount varies according to grade and county of residence. The average amount for most students in the 2018-19 school year is $10,000. Click here to view the 2018-19 Gardiner Scholarship Amounts (PDF).

  • Renewal students
    • The funding calculation remains the same, and defaults to a matrix that assigns the student to 90% of the 253 level, unless the student’s parent has asked the school district for a revised matrix.
  • New students
    • If the student does not have a matrix level of services, funding defaults to 90% of the 253 level.
    • If the student has a matrix level of services on file with the Florida Department of Education, due to public school enrollment, of 254 or 255, they will be funded at 90% of that matrix level, and they will not need to utilize the matrix review process established in the Gardiner law in order to receive the additional funding.
      • Most students with an IEP will not have a matrix level of services.
      • If you have an IEP, you are not required to request a matrix level. Please note that doing so could adjust your matrix level and corresponding amount of scholarship funding down to a lower level.

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