Bills to enhance the Gardiner Scholarship program were filed in the House and Senate this week. HB 1051 and its companion SB 1380 were filed by Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff (R-DeLand) and Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville) respectively.
If passed by both chambers and signed by the governor, the changes in the bill would allow parents to apply for the scholarship the day their child turns 3, and permit parents to use the scholarship to pay for tuition and fees associated with art, music or theater programs.
The bills also would make it easier for parents to renew their scholarship. Renewing parents would no longer be required to get a notarized “sworn compliance statement,” which is required to notify the Department of Education (DOE) of the parent’s intent to accept the scholarship and not enroll in other publicly funded educational options.
The bill would also require the DOE to create a secure website that allows parents to submit all required information in order to maintain program eligibility.
The Gardiner Scholarship is an “education savings account” program that gives parents of children with special needs a bank account to access in order to pay for tuition, fees, curriculum, school books, therapies, text books and more.
The scholarship is administered by non-profits such as Step Up For Students (which hosts this blog). Step Up funded 11,276 students with scholarships averaging $10,389 during the 2018-19 school year.
Step Up is currently accepting new and renewal applications for the Gardiner Scholarship. Parents may apply here. Step Up has already awarded more than 5,000 scholarships for 2019-20.