Here is a complete guide on how to apply for the Gardiner Scholarship or Family Empowerment Scholarship as it is now called.
Do you desire a scholarship for students with special needs? One that give room for individualizing their educational plans? Then the Gardiner Scholarship program is for you.
The Gardiner Scholarship Program can be tagged a unique scholarship for sort of unique individuals. Actually, Gardiner is the scholarship’s former name, but not anymore, it is now called Family Empowerment Scholarship.
About the Gardiner/Family Empowerment Scholarship
Gardiner Scholarship helps parents to individualize the educational plans of their children with certain special needs. It is different from other state scholarships as it gives room for children with unique abilities’ education.
This is done by directing finances towards a combination of approved providers and programs. They include, therapists, schools, technology, curriculum, specialists and even a college savings account is included.
The scholarship award varies, as it is determined by disability type, county of residence and grade.
Arizona was the first state in the US to create an education savings account program for children with special needs. Florida followed suit in 2014. The bill that created the Personal Learning Scholarship Account was passed largely along party lines and signed into law.
In honor of Andy Gardiner, Florida Senate president, (a man who with his wife champion the children with unique abilities cause for years) and his family, the legislature renamed the scholarship from Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (which was its name at inception) to Gardiner Scholarship. Andy Gardiner has 2 daughters, and a son with Down Syndrome.
This renaming was to happen again later on in the year 2021 as the legislature voted to merge the Gardiner Scholarship with the Family Empowerment scholarship. This is how what was before known as the Gardiner Scholarship came to be the Family Empowerment Scholarship.
Legislative support for the program has been bipartisan as the years rolled by, thereby making the program grow with demand as both Democrats and Republicans have voted repeatedly for increase in funding from $71million in 2016 to $105million in 2017 to $126million in 2018, to 149.7million in 2019.
An impressive increase in support over the past 2 years from parents has raised the understanding of the public about the importance of and impact of Scholarship for students with unique abilities.
$189.9billion was appropriated in 2020-2021 by the legislature for the Gardiner Scholarship. Within this period, the Scholarship was awarded to over 23,000 students, with the amount averaging around $10,000 per student. The Family Empowerment Scholarship is now funded through the FEFP (Florida Educational Finance Plan).
The breakdown of how it is awarded is as follows:
1.8% Down Syndrome, 9.4% Rare Diseases, 4.9% Multiple-Diagnoses, 3.8% High-Risk 5.7% Intellectual, 2.7% Other Health Impairment, 2.1% Specific Learning Disability 5.9% Anaphylaxis, Disability, 2% Cerebral Palsy, 56.2% Autism Spectrum, 5.5% All other diagnoses
What Are The Expenses Covered By The Gardiner/Family Empowerment Scholarship?
Good question. We have talked about how the Gardiner/Family Empowerment Scholarship takes care of children with special needs through empowering their parents for individualizing their educational plan. But we have not been specific yet on what the scholarship covers, and here we are going to be doing that.
The Gardiner Scholarship fund can be utilized for payment of tuition and fees at an occupational therapy, eligible private school, speech language pathologist, services from listening and spoken language specialists, virtual programs or online courses, private tutorial from a certified teacher, applied behavior analysis services, contribution to the state college programs, digital devices, assistive technologies, instructional materials, contract services from school districts, and exam fees.
Gardiner Scholarship Sponsors
There are Scholarship funding organizations that are approved for the Gardiner Scholarship. They are SUFS (Step Up for Students) and AAA Scholarship foundation.
SUFS has a mission to help children in Florida to attain the best education possible. This it does by utilizing the K12 scholarships. Management of students’ accounts, application review and approval, process payments, and claim review are all done by the SUFS.
Apart from providing a class scholarship for students with special needs, the organization also offers other financial aid options such as the Hope scholarship for bullied students, income based Florida tax credit scholarship, and reading scholarship accounts program for reading help.
Provider Payments And Reimbursements
Reimbursement for approved expenses can be sought by parents by submitting receipts online. The receipt is submitted with a description of the purchase’s educational purpose. Parents can also be invoiced by participating service providers to be paid directly from the account.
As mentioned earlier, the amount of the scholarship varies according to grade. However, the average per student is about $10,000.
Who Is Eligible For The Gardiner/Family Empowerment Scholarship?
Another good question. Perhaps you know or have someone around who looks like they can benefit from the Gardiner Scholarship. Let’s see the requirements here and then you can be able to figure if the person is qualified or otherwise.
- Gardiner/Family Empowerment Scholarship is for 2 year old children through to 12th grade or the age of 22 years who has any of the following disabilities; Down Syndrome, language impaired, emotional or behavior disability, dual sensory impaired, orthopedic impaired, deaf or hearing impaired, speech impairment, rare disorders, anaphylaxis, cerebral palsy, specific learning disability, intellectual disability, Williams Syndrome, Spinal Bifida, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and so on.
- Students can continue to receive the Gardiner Scholarship until they graduate from high school, reach 22 years of age or return to public school.
- The applicant must reside in the state of Florida
- If the student has not been in an eligible post secondary education institution for 3 years after high school graduation, the unspent money in the account roll over from year to year and will be refunded to the state.
This is the sum of the whole info about the Gardiner/Family Empowerment Scholarship. As you can see, the Scholarship is more of a response to biological issues. It’s not a Scholarship that consist of the best brains competing for some slots.
Now you realize why I tagged this Scholarship “a unique Scholarship for unique individuals” in the beginning of this piece. Please share this piece to get others informed about it. You may just be doing someone a life-changing favor.