Growth in a Florida education savings account created for students with unique abilities continued its steady increase in 2018-19 according to figures released this week by the leading organization that administers the program.
A new report from Step Up For Students that includes information on enrollment, student eligibility and scholarship expenses shows that 12,245 students participated in the Gardiner Scholarship Program, a nearly 2,000 student increase from 2017-18.
For 2018-19, 11,393 students were enrolled in the program through Step Up for a total award of $117 million. Another 852 enrolled through the AAA Scholarship Foundation. A total of 71 percent of the students were renewing their scholarships, and 29 percent were receiving scholarships for the first time.
Funded by state legislative appropriations, the scholarships average $10,266 a year and increase in value, some exceeding $20,000, depending on the severity of a student’s medical diagnosis. Parents can spend the money on various educational expenses such as tuition, instructional material, therapies, tutoring and electronic devices.
Families of 6,648 students used the funds in 2018-19 for tuition at one of 1,130 participating private schools. Approximately 34 percent of students were enrolled in home education. The remaining students utilized a portion of their scholarship funding for private school tuition.
Nearly 58 percent of all funds, or $57.2 million, were spent on private school tuition and fees, while 22 percent, or $21.9 million, was spent on instructional materials. Families spent $8.9 million on therapies and specialized therapies and $4.7 million on part-time tutoring.
Students are eligible for the Gardiner Scholarship if they have one of several specific diagnoses including autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and spina bifida. The majority – 63 percent – have a diagnosis of autism.
The full report, including additional breakdowns on expenses and enrollment, is available here.