Special Needs Scholarship

The Gardiner Scholarship (PLSA) program helps parents individualize the educational plans for their children with certain special needs. The program, previously called the Personal Learning Scholarship Account, was named the Gardiner Scholarship in January of 2016. The new 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 (PLSA) 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 (PLSA) scholarship amount varies according to grade and county of residence. The average amount for most students in the 2016-2017 school year is $10,000, and is based on a matrix level of 253.

This scholarship is for Florida students 3 years old through 12th grade or age 22, whichever comes first, with one of the following disabilities: autism spectrum disorder, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Spina bifida, Williams syndrome, Phelan-McDermid syndrome or intellectual disability (severe cognitive impairment). Also, students ages 3, 4 or 5 deemed “high risk” due to developmental delays may be eligible for the year they apply. (Please note: Students must not be older than 5 on Sept. 1.)

  • Students need an Individual Education Plan (IEP) from a Florida school district or a formal diagnosis from a Florida licensed physician or psychologist.
  • Students must be at least 3 or 4 on or before Sept 1. Students entering kindergarten must be 5 on or before Sept 1. Students entering first grade must be 6 on or before Sept 1.
  • Students can participate in the Gardiner Scholarship (PLSA) program as part of home education. However, they cannot be enrolled in a public school or receive any other state-sponsored scholarship (McKay Scholarship or the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship).
All students who are awarded a Gardiner Scholarship are entitled to receive the scholarship amounts listed in the document below, by county and by grade, for 2016-17. These amounts are based on public school spending for students with disabilities.

2016-17 Gardiner Scholarship Amounts (PDF)

RENEWAL FAMILIES: If your child is using a Step Up Gardiner Scholarship for the 2015-16 school year, click here to apply for the 2016-17 school year or access your account using your existing user name and password. If you have forgotten the password, click the “Forgot Password” link for assistance. Before beginning your application, please be sure to select the appropriate school year from the dropdown menu.

NEW FAMILIES:We are now accepting applications from new families for the Gardiner Scholarship for the 2016-17 school year. Before beginning your application, please select the appropriate school year from the dropdown menu. All applicants must have an active email address to create an online application.

First-time applicants, please click here to begin your application.

Please note: If you are an applicant who

  • has applied for the Gardiner Scholarship (previously known as PLSA) with Step Up in a previous year or
  • has started an application for the 2016-17 school year, but need to access your account to submit documents, check status and more, please click here to login using your existing user name and password. If you have forgotten the password, please see the “Forgot
    Password” link for assistance.

PLANNING AHEAD: If you are a new family interested in the scholarship for children with certain special needs for the 2017-18 school year, please click here to sign up for our interest list to be notified when we begin accepting applications.

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