During the Legislative Session two bills, HB 15 and HB 7069, were passed and signed by the Governor to amend the Gardiner Scholarship. These new laws will
Expand the Gardiner Scholarship to include a student identified
with rare disease which affect patient populations of fewer than 200,000 individuals in the United States, as defined by the National Organization for Rare Disorders;
as visually impaired;
as dual sensory impaired as defined by the rules of the State Board of Education and evidenced by reports from the local school district;
as traumatic brain injured;
as hospital or homebound, with a medically diagnosed physical or psychiatric condition or illness defined by rules of the State Board of Education, evidenced by reports from the local school district, and will be confined to the home or hospital for more than 6 months.
Allow the scholarship to be used for
services approved by a hospital in this state;
horse therapy if the center is a member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International;
music therapy if therapist is certified by the Certification Board for Music Therapist; or
art therapy if the therapist is credentialed by the Art Therapy Credentials Board. Inc.
Eliminate the requirement that an “IEP” must be reviewed or revised within the last 12 months.
Allow an “IEP” to be written under the rules of another state.
Allow a diagnosis to be written by a physician who holds an active license by another state or territory of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.
Require the parent to procure the necessary educational services for the student within 2 years. If the student’s account has been inactive for 2 consecutive fiscal years, the student becomes ineligible for additional scholarship payments until the scholarship funding organization verifies that expenditures from the account have occurred.
Close a student’s scholarship account if the account has been inactive for three consecutive fiscal years and returns any remaining funds to the state.
Prohibit the parent from billing an insurance company, Medicaid, or any other agency for the same services paid by the Gardiner Scholarship.
Establish, beginning in the 2017-18 fiscal year and thereafter, that the funding for a new student entering the program will be based on the student’s matrix level of services determined by the “IEP.” The student without a matrix will be funded at a Level III matrix of services.
Increase the funding for the program by $30 million in order to serve children on the waiting list.
HEF NOTES: 1. Beginning with the 2017-18 fiscal year, parents are being required to document that a child is still enrolled in a home education program. This requirement by the Department of Education is to ensure the integrity of the Gardiner Scholarship Program. The Department is required by law to cross check students participating in the Gardiner Scholarship Program with public school student enrollment lists in order to ensure that the State is not paying twice for the same student.
Although the home education program law does not require parents to notify the school district of their intent to continue in a home education program every year, a simple solution to this requirement by the state would be to send in a Notice of Intent to continue your home education program along with the annual evaluation. The district could then date stamp the Notice and provide an electronic copy to the parent. Both AAA Scholarships and Step Up For Students may accept other verification. Check with the Scholarship Funding Organization which provides your child’s scholarship to see what documentation they can accept.
2. The Department of Education website defines each of the disabilities included in the Gardiner Scholarship. To see if your child may be eligible for the Scholarship you can find the definitions at: http://www.fldoe.org/academics/exceptional-student-edu/ese-eligibility/
3. The student’s “IEP” will need to verify the disabilities for dual sensory impaired and hospital/homebound as required by law.
4. You may contact the two nonprofit Scholarship Funding Organizations approved to administer the scholarship program.