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 2015-2016 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 or intellectual disability (severe cognitive impairment). Also, students in kindergarten deemed “high risk” due to developmental delays and not older than 5 on Sept. 1 may be eligible for the year they apply.
- 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 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).
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