The serious business about the McKay Scholarship

mckay scholarship

Does your child have an IEP or 504 in the state of Florida?

Florida was the first state to implement a scholarship like McKay.  McKay allows for parents of special needs children to use funds allocated to the public school for private school tuition.  (you can use McKay to transfer to another public school as long as that school has availability) The idea within McKay is that parents have more choice in how their child is educated and to be sure that funds are being used for a Free Public Appropriate Education (FAPE).  The key is that parents must select an accredited public or private school that will accept McKay dollars.     The reason that McKay gets so serious is dollars.  Students that have the highest matrix score can be awarded up to $22,000!

So, I’m going to try to give you the key points that you have to know when considering McKay.  There is so much information about deadlines, % of money received, how to apply, how a child earns the money and how you can lose the money.  Visit the Florida Department of Education to read all the details and frequently asked questions.

The key concepts that I found helpful were related to


the matrix



Attendance is key to McKay eligibility because the state determines funding with FTE (full-time equivalent).  We call FTE week “date certain” and teachers have to verify attendance for all their students for each day and each period if applicable.   Students have to attend at least one day during FTE week in both October and February periods. Students can not withdraw from public school and not enroll in a private school to be eligible for the scholarship.  This essentially means that you can not show lapse in care or education; that would mean you have a break in service and would not be eligible for the money even when you have an IEP.  So, the moment you have hardship at your public school and what to withdraw your child. DON’T.  You keep them home and find another school.  Start sending then to that new school if you need to then apply within the date range for McKay.  You can get a percentage of the scholarship throughout the year.  The payments are broken into quarters and you could use a percent of the scholarship within the school year.  Obviously, as the parent any amount not covered by the scholarship would have to be paid by you.

The matrix for the McKay scholarship is vital to maximizing your score and payout.  The matrix scores are between 251 and 255.  Only 5% of applicants score a 255 which has the highest payout.  That payout could be close to $22,000.  The matrix score is determined by the school district.  Parents have no legal authority to “score” the McKay matrix in preparation to the final score.  School’s have to create a matrix score within 30 days.  Technically, the matrix score should already be done but the district still has time to complete the application via the state’s online application center.  There are five domains that make up the score are: Curriculum and Learning, Social/Emotional Behavior, Independent Functioning, Healthcare and Communication.  This matrix score can change during the school year depending on services received within the IEP.  However, once you use your McKay dollars for private school then they will not change (unless you go back into public school).

There are a LOT of qualifiers/eligibility determining factors; please review the state website again for more detailed and specific guidelines.  The things that stuck with me regarding McKay was that you have to use the money for private tuition and that the money goes directly to the school.  The matrix score is based solely off the IEP or 504.  The child does not have to have a medical diagnosis; they can just have an IEP that qualifies them for services in the public school setting.  A 504 plan does qualify for McKay, however, the matrix with the five domains is not used.  Most families should expect to see less than $5500 with a 504 plan.

There are so many details to the McKay.  If you read through the Florida Department of Education website you can make sure that your child has the checklist of basics before you fill out your student intent form.  Once you have completed the intent form you will be sent a confirmation number to use to find out the matrix code and eligibility determination.  Once you have your amount awarded you can select a private school to enroll your child in.  If you are not satisfied with your matrix score then I would recommend hiring an advocate to review your IEP to determine if you can raise the matrix score to provide additional funding.  I would recommend the IEP Advocate, I haven’t paid to use them but have been to workshops and they are very knowledgeable and detailed oriented.

Our family is waiting to see what our matrix score will be and then determine if will use the McKay scholarship for private tuition.  We will be comparing our McKay to our potential Gardiner scholarship amount.

Apply for McKay.
Ruthfulness single letter logo 2017 150 blog icon small



















5 Comments Add yours

  1. Marie says:

    Hello R- Do you have more information on how the matrix score is created? My child has one but I do not know how it was evaluated. If we get an additional diagnosis (above and beyond what was initially in our IEP to create the first matrix score), does that mean we could qualify for a higher score? I feel like so much of this information is not transparent and so difficult to find any information on let alone understand.


    1. ruthfulness says:

      I do have 1 set of clarification questions.
      The primary diagnosis was it under 5?
      Like do you have LI or DD?
      That would have been created by getting an IEP?
      Do you now have a new diagnosis? Like ASD?
      Did that diagnosis come from a dr or was it done in district?


      1. Marie says:

        Yes the primary diagnosis was under age 5, it was for speech/articulation and came from the school district. However I do believe there is more going on, and we are going through the process privately (as we have not received any support through the county. I was told that the child has to basically be suffering/failing in school before we could pursue additional testing through county.
        As is grades and testing have been fine, however teachers are making accommodations – sitting in front, extra help, removing from distractions, extra verbal instructions, less work given if it is a timed scenario, etc.. and I do a lot of extra help at home with HW). I believe there is a possible auditory processing issue and/or language issues.
        Does LI = language impairment? and DD = developmental delay? I am just starting this journey so I tried to piece together what LI/DD mean. Child sees a SLP at school but I believe they are limited in how they can help, and most definitely there is not any ability for to be pro-active. There is definitely something else going on with language/speech, but I have not made any headway with current SLP or district.
        We do not have any new diagnosis, child has to be 7 before I could get privately tested for auditory processing disorder. We are waiting on that appt currently.


      2. ruthfulness says:

        Using the current IEP you are under the old “mckay” program. When you get a diagnosis higher than speech or language then you would or could get a different matrix score. However, the only reason to get an outside dr to evaluate is to leave public school. When you get a dr to diagnosis then that will give you documentation to apply and move schools.
        I would consider if there is a private school that could meet his needs and what that costs. Do you want to leave your current public school?
        All the special needs money is now step up for students UA
        UA=unique abilities
        It covers both IEP and private diagnosis…its all incompancing now

        You can request his matrix score to see what he is at? 253 would be low and common for a speech/language code
        Probably 7 or 8k for school


    2. ruthfulness says:

      And you are absolutely correct in the transparency of the information!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s