Family Empowerment Scholarship

This article is explaining the new law passed in Florida that removes financial eligibility restrictions and enrollment caps for the Family Empowerment Scholarship educational options.

It explains how the law expands school choice options for students, including the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities.

The program aims to provide more choices and opportunities for education to empower families and children to achieve their educational goals.

It also includes additional educational options for families with disabled children aged 3 and above.

Family Empowerment Scholarship

Family Empowerment Scholarship

Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1 into law on March 27, 2023.

Florida has passed a new law that expands school choice options for students.

This law removes financial eligibility restrictions and enrollment caps for the Family Empowerment Scholarship Educational Options starting from the 2023-24 school year.

Moreover, to address high demand and waitlists, the annual scholarship cap growth for the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities will increase by three percent annually instead of one percent.

By expanding these options along with other school choice alternatives, Florida is empowering families and children to achieve their educational goals.

FES for Educational Options

The scholarship eligibility branch offers more educational choices for K-12 students.

These options can include attending a private school that participates in the program.

Families can apply and renew their application annually through approved scholarship funding organizations (SFOs).

The SFOs are in charge of deciding who receives funding and distributing it.

In addition, eligible families have the option to receive a $750 scholarship to cover transportation costs to a public school if they choose to attend a different school from the one assigned to them.

Family Empowerment Scholarship Requirements

To apply for FES for Students with Unique Abilities, you must submit certain documents. These include;

  • Proof of the child’s age.
  • Proof of residency.
  • Sworn compliance statement.
  • Proof of disabilities.

Each document is essential to ensure that your child qualifies for the program. Without these documents, your application may be rejected.

Therefore, make sure to double-check that all required documents are included before submitting your application.

Eligibility Criteria For FES

1. For Unique Abilities

To be eligible for this scholarship, applicants must meet one of the following criteria.

  • They must have previously participated in the Gardiner Scholarship Program.
  • They must have a certified diagnosis from a physician or psychologist, or have an Individualized Education Plan.
  • They must be at least three or four years old by September 1st 2023, or be eligible for K-12 education.

2. For Educational Options

To avail of the scholarship program, candidates must meet specific criteria.

These include having an income level not exceeding 375% of the federal poverty level or being a military dependent.

Additionally, candidates who are five years old by September 1st, 2023, are eligible to apply.

Finally, candidates who have a qualified student sibling can also apply for the scholarship.

Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities

The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program has a specialized branch for families with disabled children aged 3 and above. This branch provides additional education options.

Parents can opt to enroll their child in another public school or receive an education savings account (ESA). An ESA is a government-authorized savings account that receives public funds. It has restricted uses but multiple options.

An ESA covers private school tuition, fees, online learning programs, private tutoring, community college costs, higher education expenses, customized learning services and materials.

To apply or renew participation in FES UA, families must go through one of the approved SFOs. These SFOs determine eligibility, distribute funding, and approve eligible expenditures for students.

How Family Empowerment Scholarship Works

The Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities (FES-UA) offers access to an education savings account (ESA) that works like a bank account.

With this account, you can direct funds to pay for tuition, fees, therapies, tutoring, and other educational expenses.

MyScholarShop allows families to purchase services and products without paying upfront and applying for reimbursement.

You can also use providers outside of MyScholarShop for pre-approved purchases by paying upfront and submitting a reimbursement claim.

To apply for a scholarship, visit Step Up For Students and provide proof of your child’s age, diagnosis, and residency.

Once approved, the funds will be deposited into an ESA.

Find pre-approved services and products on MyScholarShop and make payments directly from the ESA to providers and vendors.

You can also purchase pre-approved services and products and request reimbursement.

Who Is Eligible For Family Empowerment Scholarship?

Students with a specific diagnosis are eligible for the program, which covers ages 3 to grade 12 or age 22, whichever comes first.

  • Anaphylaxis
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Emotional or behavioral disability
  • Hearing impairment, including deafness
  • Hospital or homebound
  • Identification as dual sensory impaired
  • Intellectual disability
  • Language impairment
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Orthopedic impairment
  • Other health impairment
  • Phelan-McDermid syndrome
  • Prader-Willi syndrome
  • Rare diseases
  • Specific learning disability
  • Speech impairment
  • Spina bifida
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Visual impairment, including blindness
  • Williams syndrome

Working with Providers

Approved providers offer specialized services including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Speech-Language Pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and listening/spoken language therapy.

Other specialized services are also provided by approved providers.

Specialized service providers must be approved either by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities or licensed by the Florida Department of Health.

They may also be staff members of an organization approved as a provider through the Office of Early Learning for Specialized Instructional Services Provider (SIS) or listed as practicing in Florida on the BACB website.

Bottom Line

Florida has passed a new law that expands school choice options for students by removing financial eligibility restrictions and enrollment caps for the Family Empowerment Scholarship Educational Options.

This includes the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities, which provides additional education options for families with disabled children aged 3 and above.

The program offers access to an education savings account (ESA) that covers private school tuition, fees, therapies, tutoring, customized learning services and materials, and higher education expenses.

Eligible students with specific diagnoses can work with approved providers who offer specialized services including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Speech-Language Pathology, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and listening/spoken language therapy.

This program empowers families and children to achieve their educational goals by providing more choices and opportunities for their education.