Frequently Asked Questions

We are updating our Frequently Asked Questions. Please check back for updates.

Funding for the Family Empowerment Scholarship (formerly Gardiner) comes from the State of Florida. You are not required to have an IEP or a matrix level to be eligible for funding in the Family Empowerment Scholarship (formerly Gardiner).

Renewal (Gardiner) students

For a student who has a Level I to Level III matrix of services or a diagnosis by a physician or psychologist, the calculated scholarship amount for a student participating in the program must be based upon the grade level and school district in which the student would have been enrolled. The funds must be allocated based on the school district’s average exceptional student education guaranteed allocation funds per exceptional student education full-time equivalent student.
For a student with a Level IV or Level V matrix of services, the calculated scholarship amount must be based upon the school district to which the student would have been assigned as the total funds per full-time equivalent for the Level IV or Level V exceptional student education program.

For a student who received a Gardiner Scholarship in the 2020-2021 school year, the amount of the award will be the greater of the amount calculated above or the amount the student received for the 2020-2021 school year.
New students

For a student who has a Level I to Level III matrix of services or a diagnosis by a physician or psychologist, the calculated scholarship amount for a student participating in the program must be based upon the grade level and school district in which the student would have been enrolled. The funds must be allocated based on the school district’s average exceptional student education guaranteed allocation funds per exceptional student education full-time equivalent student.
For a student with a Level IV or Level V matrix of services, the calculated scholarship amount must be based upon the school district to which the student would have been assigned as the total funds per full-time equivalent for the Level IV or Level V exceptional student education program.

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 and you will be funded at the average of the level I to III funding level. Please note that requesting a review of your matrix level could adjust the corresponding amount of scholarship funding down to a lower level.

For the 2021-22 school year, the state will fund 20,000 scholarship students. Scholarships will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
 

Parents can use the account to pay for a variety of approved services and materials. These may include: tuition and fees at an eligible private school; an eligible postsecondary institution or those associated with home education programs; applied behavior analysis services and a variety of therapies; private full-time and part-time tutoring; virtual programs or online courses; exam fees; contract services from school districts; contributions to the Florida prepaid and 529 college savings plans; instructional material; curriculum; horse, music and art therapy; transition services; and services provided by VPK providers and school readiness providers.

For a full list and additional detail, please refer to the Parent Handbook.

 

Students can continue to receive the Family Empowerment Scholarship (formerly Gardiner) until they graduate from high school, turn 22 or return to public school.

Funding to the account will continue each year, based on the annual application submission, and agreement to comply with the rules (Sworn Compliance Statement). Once the student graduates from high school or turns 22 on or before July 1 (whichever comes first,) no additional funds will be deposited into the student’s account. However, if the intent to continue in the program is demonstrated each year by the submission of a renewal application and the required documentation, the scholarship account will remain in place until

  • the funds have been used; or
  • any period of two consecutive years after high school completion or graduation during which the student has not been enrolled in an eligible postsecondary educational institution or a program offered by the institution;
  • there has been no spending activity for two consecutive fiscal years (July 1 – June 30).

At that point, the account is closed and any remaining money reverts to the state.

If Step Up for Students does not receive a renewal application each year by June 30, the student’s account will be frozen so that additional reimbursements or expenditures cannot be made until the renewal application and required documentation have been received and processed.

If there is no spending from an account for two consecutive fiscal years, the account will be considered inactive until spending occurs. While the account is in an inactive status, no new scholarship funds will be deposited into the account. If an account is inactive for two consecutive fiscal years, the account must be closed, and any remaining funds revert to the state.

Families of students who initially qualify under the High-Risk designation, must, at the time the student is six (6) years old on or before September 1 of the school year applied for, provide documentation of eligibility for the student under one of the other eligible diagnoses.

Yes, the Gardiner Scholarship can be used as an educational tool for parents educating their children at home.
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