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Office of Independent Education & Parental Choice

Office of Independent Education & Parental Choice

 Office of Independent Education & Parental Choice 

McKay Responsibilities

Parent Responsibilities  |  Public School District Responsibilities  |  Private School Responsibilities

The McKay Scholarship Program is a parental choice program for Florida public school students. The first step in applying for a McKay Scholarship for your child is to file intent to participate in the program prior to withdrawing your student from public school.

After filing intent:

Parents choosing the public school option of the McKay Scholarship Program are responsible for contacting the school district for further information on available public school options.

Parents choosing the private school option of the McKay Scholarship Program are responsible for the following:

  1. Understanding that the intent for a McKay Scholarship must be filed at least 60 days prior to the date of the first scholarship payment. The table below illustrates important dates regarding filing intent and receiving payments;
    • File by July 3 for September 1 payment.
      (100% of scholarship amount)
    • File by September 2 for November 1 payment.
      (75% of scholarship amount)
    • File by December 3 for February 1 payment.
      (50% of scholarship amount)
    • File by February 1 for April 1 payment.
      (25% of scholarship amount)
  2. Checking your child's intent and eligibility status;
  3. Selecting a participating private school;
  4. Knowing the scholarship award amount for your child;
  5. Complying with and having your child comply with the private school's published policies;
  6. Keeping your child in attendance at a participating private school throughout the school year unless excused by the school for illness or other good cause; and
  7. Providing transportation for your child if you would like for him/her to participate in statewide assessments.

Scholarship Terms

The scholarship shall remain in effect until the student:

  • Returns to a public school;
  • Graduates from high school, or
  • Reaches the age of 22, whichever occurs first.

A student in a private school McKay Scholarship can return to a public school using the McKay Scholarship public school option; however, the parent must notify the district prior to doing so. The school district will determine what public school options are available to the student after receiving the request. A student who exercises this choice will need to reestablish eligibility by being in an October and February student survey before being eligible again for the private school option of the McKay Scholarship.

A student is not eligible for a McKay Scholarship while he or she is:

  1. Enrolled in a Department Juvenile Justice commitment program;
  2. Receiving another state scholarship (including the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship);
  3. Participating in a home education or private tutoring program;
  4. Participating in more than two courses per school year in a virtual school, correspondence school, or distance learning program that receives state funding;
  5. Enrolled in the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind; or
  6. Not having regular and direct contact with his or her private school teachers at the school's physical location.

Scholarship Payment Information

We highly encourage you to take an active part in selecting an appropriate school for your child and completing the necessary follow-up steps for your child's enrollment. Payments under the McKay Scholarship Program can only be made if parental intent and a student fee schedule have both been submitted by the appropriate deadlines. Please take note of the deadlines for private schools to submit student documentation as listed below under Private School Responsibilities.

In order to ensure timely payment, the Department of Education must begin processing student scholarships at least 3 weeks prior to the payment deadline. Payments will be issued based on the student's enrollment information at that time. If you choose to withdraw and/or transfer your child to another private school during the 3 week processing period, you must notify the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice as soon as possible.

A parent who is transferring a child to another private school should not take a check from one private school and endorse it to the new private school. The scholarship calculation was based on the original private school's tuition and fees and may not be accurate for another private school.

The Department of Education is authorized to make one payment per student per quarter and is not authorized to make any partial or retroactive payments. Upon endorsing a warrant to the private school, the parent and the private school validate that the quarterly payment amount is correct. Any discrepancies thereafter shall be resolved between the parent and the private school. In addition, the IRS has determined that acceptance of a scholarship under this program is not considered personal family income.


Public School District Responsibilities

In general, a school district must:

  • Notify parents of disabled students about the McKay Scholarship Program by April 1 of each school year and within 10 days of an Individual Education Plan (IEP) meeting or a 504 accommodation plan is issued.
  • Inform parents of the availability of the Information Hotline and School Choice website address.
  • Keep all district contact information up-to-date with the department. This can be done through the website when logged in as a district administrator.
  • Submit an annual Parental Notification Verification Form to the Department of Education (distributed via paperless in the spring of each school year).

For students applying for a McKay Scholarship, a school district must:

  • Offer parents an opportunity to enroll their child in another public school within their district if the parent requests information on the McKay public school option.
  • For a student with an IEP, complete a matrix within 30 days of the parent's filed intent date that assignes the student to one of the levels of service as they existed prior to the 2000-2001 school year. A school district must notify parents, within 10 days of a filed intent, if a matrix has not been completed, and inform parents that the required matrix completion date is 30 days after a filed intent.
  • For a student with a 504 accommodation plan, within 30 days of the parent's filed intent date submit 504 plan funding based on the program cost factor the student currently generates throug the Florida Education Finance Program.

For an eligible student participating in the McKay Scholarship Program at a private school, a school district must:

  • Change a matrix of services only for a technical, typographical, or calculation error.
  • Provide locations and times, if requested, for any McKay scholarship student attending a private school within the district to take statewide assessment exams.
  • Provide re-evaluation notifications to parents of scholarship students with IEPs at least once every 3 years.
  • Confirm scholarship students have not enrolled in public school by completing the District Enrollment Verification files quarterly prior to scholarship payments.
  • Report students that receive McKay Scholarship funding as 3518 which designates them as McKay Private school students on the FTE survey.
  • Notify the Department of Education if a student enrolls in public school, is registered as a home education student, or is committed to a DJJ commitment program.

For an eligible student participating in the McKay Scholarship Program public option, a school district must:

  • Provide transportation to the public school selected by the parent if the choice is consistent with the district's school choice plan under s. 1002.31.
  • Accept a McKay student from an adjacent district if there is space available and there is a program in place that provides the services agreed to in the student's IEP or 504 accommodation plan.
  • Accept a student from the private McKay option with reasonable notice.
  • Report students in the FTE survey as McKay Public.

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Private School Responsibilities

IMPORTANT: This is an attempt to summarize important requirements related to the McKay Scholarship Program. This page is only a guide, and the provisions in law take precedence. Private school administrators are responsible for knowledge of and compliance with the requirements outlined in Sections 1002.42, 1002.421, 1002.39, and 1002.395, Florida Statutes, as well as 6A-6.03315, 6A-6.0970 and 6A-6.0960, Florida Administrative Code, as they relate to private schools participating in the McKay and Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Programs.

In order to participate in a state scholarship program, a private school must:

  • Maintain in this state a physical location where students regularly attend classes.
  • Notify the Department of Education of their intent to participate.
  • Demonstrate fiscal soundness by:
    1. Being in operation for at least 3 school years, or
    2. Filing with the Department of Education a surety bond or letter of credit for the amount equal to the scholarship funds for any quarter.
  • Submit a fee schedule, including special education and related services available and the associated fees. Fees applied to the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program student must be the same as those for other students at the institution. Extended day programs such as after school care must be instructional and include a tutor or teacher who provides additional instruction to students. If this service is provided to students, a description of the program should be included with the fee schedule.
  • Comply with the anti-discrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. s. 2000d.
  • Employ or contract only with teachers who hold a baccalaureate or higher degree, or have at least three years of teaching experience in public or private schools, or have special skills, knowledge, or expertise that qualifies them to provide instruction in subjects taught.
  • Submit a signed and notarized Scholarship Compliance Form certifying that all school employees and contracted personnel with direct student contact have undergone the required background screening.
  • Meet state and local health, safety, and welfare laws, codes, and rules.

Once approved to participate in a state scholarship program, a private school must:

  • Be aware of all program deadlines.
  • Timely respond to requests for information from the Department, including responses to Departmental inquiries based upon complaints against your school.
  • Notify the Department of a change in the school's name, director, mailing address, or physical location within 15 days after the change.
  • Timely submit any updates to the required documents which may have been affected by the change in director or change in location.
  • Maintain current contact information on the Department's website, including e-mail addresses.
  • Return any funds received for services on a student's fee schedule that were not provided.
  • Accurately report student withdrawal dates. The withdrawal date for McKay Scholarship purposes is the last day the student attends classes at the private school.
  • Complete and submit the signed and notarized Private School Annual Survey required by s. 1002.42.
  • Annually complete and submit the signed and notarized Scholarship Compliance Form by March 1 of each school year. Any additional documentation must be submitted by May 1 of that school year.
  • Annually meet scholarship compliance requirements and keep evidence and documentation demonstrating your school's compliance. We recommend keeping a binder of all important scholarship information.

For an eligible student participating in the McKay Scholarship Program, a private school must:

  • Provide a program of instruction for a minimum of 170 actual school instruction days with the required instructional hours (determined by grade level per state board Rule 6A-1.09512) under the direct instruction of the private school teacher at the school's physical location with occasional off-site activities under the supervision of the private school teacher.
  • Be academically accountable to the parent for meeting the educational needs of the student by providing a written explanation to the parent of the student's progress annually and cooperating with parents who choose to have the student participate in statewide assessments.
  • Comply with all state laws relating to general regulation of private schools.
  • Withdraw a student from their register of McKay Scholarship students when requested by the parent.
  • Notify the Department when a scholarship student withdraws from the school.
  • (FTC students only) Require that all FTC Scholarship students in grades 3-10 annually take a norm-referenced test and ensure that the test results are reported to the parent and to an independent research organization as provided by law.

To ensure payments are processed for each McKay Scholarship student, a private school must do the following:

Participating private schools must understand that to receive payment, a student must have filed intent for the scholarship at least 60 days before the payment date.

Participating private schools must submit all student enrollment and fee schedule documentation (both the school's master fee schedule and the student's individual fee schedule) at least 30 days before the student's first quarterly scholarship payment can be made. It is important for private schools participating in the McKay Scholarship Program to understand the difference between registering and enrolling scholarship students.

To REGISTER a student is to locate the student's information in the Department's database and add the student to the private school's McKay student list. These students will appear under the "Registered Students" heading of your school's McKay Student List.

To ENROLL a student is to create and submit an individual fee schedule for the student so that the student receives a scholarship payment. To enroll a student, click on the student's name, then the "Enroll" tab in the upper right corner then follow the link to submit a fee schedule for the student.

The 30-day deadline for submitting all necessary student documentation and the corresponding quarterly payment dates for each school year are as follows:

Enrollment Deadline For Payment On
Sunday, August 2, 2015September 1
Friday, October 2, 2015November 1
Saturday, January 2, 2016February 1
Wednesday, March 2, 2016April 1

The Department of Education may not make any payments for students whose documentation is received after the 30-day deadline.

Subsequent payments shall be made upon verification of continued enrollment and attendance at the private school. Attendance Verification must be submitted by the private school prior to the second, third, and fourth quarter payment periods. The dates for attendance verification for the 2014-2015 school year are as follows:

Month Open Close

Students sometimes change schools after a payment has been processed, so if you receive a warrant for a student who is no longer enrolled at your school, the warrant should be returned to the Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice immediately.

The warrant should not be taken by the parent to another private school or transferred from one private school to another private school. The scholarship calculation is based on the original private school's tuition and fees and may not be accurate for another private school.

The Department of Education is authorized to make one payment per student per quarter. Upon endorsing a warrant, the parent and the private school validate that the quarterly payment amount is correct, and any discrepancies thereafter shall be resolved between the parent and the private school. Claims for missed payments must be made within one year of the date the payment was originally issued.

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