Bill would boost Florida special needs scholarships


The nation’s largest education savings account program would triple in size under a bill filed yesterday by the Florida Senate’s lead education budget writer.

SB 902 by Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, would boost funding for Gardiner Scholarships from $71.2 million to $200 million.

It would also expand the list of conditions that allow students to qualify for the scholarships, which are available to children with specific special needs. The bill would make scholarships available to hearing and visually impaired students, those with traumatic brain injuries and those who are hospital or homebound.

The scholarships are designed to be worth approximately 90 percent of the amount the state would spend to educate a child in public schools. Parents can use the money to pay for private school tuition, homeschool curriculum, therapies, public-school courses, college savings and other approved education-related expenses.

This school year, the program serves more than 7,700 students, making it the largest education savings account program in the nation.

Step Up For Students, which publishes this blog and employs me, helps administer the scholarship program. It receives money from the state, worth 3 percent of the amount it gives out in scholarships, to pay for administrative expenses.

Simmons, the sponsor of the bill, is a longtime ally of Andy Gardiner, the former Senate President whose family provides the program’s namesake. Simmons chairs the Senate subcommittee in charge of education spending.

The House has not yet released details of its spending plans for Gardiner scholarships, but it has historically been supportive of the program.


3 Responses to Bill would boost Florida special needs scholarships

  1. INGRID G NOVIKOVA February 14, 2017 at 5:01 pm #

    As a parent of a child with autism and a professional librarian, it is a blessing to receive the Gardiner scholarship.
    I thank both the sponsors and the one who came up with the idea so that parents have the opportunity to personalize the education of their children.

    I can guarantee you that every penny of that money is and will be for my child’s education. I am very happy because I can design my child’s educational curriculum based on their skills. And thank God I see results.

    Thank you

  2. Milagros March 12, 2017 at 12:35 pm #

    I think that expand the services to other special needs children are excellent! Including deaf of hard hearing,blind, and others will start making a great difference in this children life. There is nothing impossible and the sky is the limit.Thank you so much to all the people involved for this to happened.

  3. Milagros March 12, 2017 at 12:57 pm #

    I will be very appreciate it if my severe to profound hearing loss child can participate of Gardiner Scholarship. He will get a tremendous benefit that will help to support his dreams to becomes part of a productive hard working society. Deaf schools are not for everybody and is not logic to think that all deaf will be happy to be in the same school environment. Deaf children deserve to be in an inclusive society and be capable to successfully thrive on it. Thanks.