Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship Program allows students with special needs an opportunity to receive an education savings account (ESA) funded by the state and administered by an approved Scholarship Funding Organization. Parents can use the funds to pay for a variety of educational services, including private school tuition, tutoring, online education, home education, curriculum, therapy, postsecondary educational institutions in Florida, and other defined educational services.
Florida’s Gardiner Scholarship Program provides parents funds to pay for a variety of educational services for their children, including private school tuition, tutoring, online education, curriculum, therapy, post-secondary educational institutions in Florida, and other defined educational services.
The maximum amount for the ESA is equivalent to 90 percent of the state and local funds reflected in the state funding formula that would have gone to the student had he or she attended public school.
Students qualify if they reside in Florida and are eligible to enroll in kindergarten through 12th grade. They must have an Individualized Education Plan or have been diagnosed with one of the following: autism, Down syndrome, an intellectual disability, Prader-Willi syndrome, spina-bifida, or Williams syndrome or be kindergartners who are considered “high-risk.” In 2015–16, eligibility expanded to include 3- and 4-year-olds, students who have muscular dystrophy, and students who are anywhere on the autism spectrum.
In July 2014, Tom Faase, a high school social studies teacher in the Lee County Public School System, filed a lawsuit challenging Florida’s new Gardiner Scholarship Program. Plaintiff claimed the program was enacted in violation of the state constitution’s “single subject matter” rule. On December 30, 2014, the Circuit Court, Second Judicial Circuit, Leon County, Florida, dismissed the case, with prejudice. There was no appeal. The court closed the file on this case in February 2015. Tom Faasse, et al. v. Rick Scott, as Governor and Head of the Department of Revenue, et al.