Effective July 1, 2022, the McKay Scholarship Program will join the Family Empowerment Scholarship Program under the Unique Abilities category (FES UA). Current McKay families will have the opportunity to remain in their current public or private school choice setting or to utilize the additional options available under the FES UA education savings account model to further customize their child’s education experience for their specific needs.
In the late 1990s, as the number of children with disabilities grew in the state of Florida it became apparent that public schools could not meet every need of every child with a disability, even through their ESE, Exceptional Student Education Services. So how and where were these children with disabilities going to get help?
John McKay, a grandfather of a child with a disability and President of the Florida State Senate spearheaded a program where parents could have a choice to use ESE funds allocated for their child and go to another school, private or public, that would have a program better suited to their child’s specific needs. The John McKay Scholarship Program’s ultimate goal was to give a child with a disability the best academic environment that the state could provide. This program was named after him, The John McKay Scholarship.
In 1999, The John McKay Scholarship Program started as a pilot program for 2 children with disabilities living in Sarasota, Florida. That year, a total of six children participated in the John McKay Scholarship Program and by 2002 the program had grown to help 5,000 children. In the 2021-2022 school year, 30,000 children participated in The McKay Scholarship Program, which is amazing. But what is even more amazing is that there are over 500,000 children in Florida that have disabilities and qualify for The McKay Scholarship but only a small number of those children participated.
Why, why, why did the other 470,000 not participate? Probably because they don’t even know that The John McKay Scholarship Program is available to them. Did you know that Florida’s McKay Scholarship Program is the largest disability program in the United States and yet only a small percentage take advantage of it? That is why it is important to inform and educate the public about this great opportunity for children with disabilities.