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1002.394 - The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program (FES-UA)

Updated: May 30

(Formerly known as 1002.385 – The Gardiner Scholarship - see older version below)

This is not the full statute. This includes purpose, a few key definitions, and eligibility. THIS LINK will take you to the full statute.


—The Family Empowerment Scholarship Program is established to provide children of families in this state which have limited financial resources with educational options to achieve success in their education.

(2) DEFINITIONS.—As used in this section, the term:

(e) “Disability” means, for a 3- or 4-year-old child or for a student in kindergarten to grade 12, autism spectrum disorder, as defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, published by the American Psychiatric Association; cerebral palsy, as defined in s. 393.063; Down syndrome, as defined in s. 393.063; an intellectual disability, as defined in s. 393.063; a speech impairment; a language impairment; an orthopedic impairment; any other health impairment; an emotional or a behavioral disability; a specific learning disability, including, but not limited to, dyslexia, dyscalculia, or developmental aphasia; Phelan-McDermid syndrome, as defined in s. 393.063; Prader-Willi syndrome, as defined in s. 393.063; spina bifida, as defined in s. 393.063; being a high-risk child, as defined in s. 393.063(22)(a); muscular dystrophy; Williams syndrome; rare diseases which affect patient populations of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, as defined by the National Organization for Rare Disorders; anaphylaxis; a hearing impairment, including deafness; a visual impairment, including blindness; traumatic brain injury; hospital or homebound; or identification as dual sensory impaired, as defined by rules of the State Board of Education and evidenced by reports from local school districts. The term “hospital or homebound” includes a student who has a medically diagnosed physical or psychiatric condition or illness, as defined by the state board in rule, and who is confined to the home or hospital for more than 6 months.


(b) A parent of a student with a disability may request and receive from the state a scholarship for the purposes specified in paragraph (4)(b) if the student:

1. Is a resident of this state;

2. Is 3 or 4 years of age on or before September 1 of the year in which the student applies for program participation or is eligible to enroll in kindergarten through grade 12 in a public school in this state;

3. Has a disability as defined in subsection (2); and

4. Is the subject of an IEP written in accordance with rules of the State Board of Education or with the applicable rules of another state or has received a diagnosis of a disability from a physician who is licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459, a psychologist who is licensed under chapter 490, or a physician who holds an active license issued by another state or territory of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

(c) An approved student who does not receive a scholarship must be placed on the wait list in the order in which the student is approved. An eligible student who does not receive a scholarship within the fiscal year must be retained on the wait list for the subsequent year.

Older version known as The Gardiner Scholarship

The Gardiner Scholarship has been repealed and is now known as the Florida Empowerment Scholarship.

(1) ESTABLISHMENT OF PROGRAM.— The Gardiner Scholarship Program is established to provide the option for a parent to better meet the individual educational needs of his or her eligible child. All written explanatory materials, state websites, scholarship organization materials, letters to parents, scholarship agreements, and any other information describing this program to the public shall refer to a scholarship under the program as the “Gardiner Scholarship.”

(2) DEFINITIONS.— As used in this section, the term: (a) “Approved provider” means a provider approved by the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, a health care practitioner as defined in s. 456.001(4), or a provider approved by the department pursuant to s. 1002.66.

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