On Monday, March 28, the House K-20 Innovation Subcommittee discussed HB 1329 and the Committee Substitute which affects the John M. McKay Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Program. Robyn Rennick and Dr. Patricia K. Hardman represented The Coalition and spoke in favor of the committee substitute. President Steve Hicks brought a parent and student who had been on the 504 plan to testify. Only one person spoke against the bill. The Committee Substitute passed unanimously the Committee Substitute for HB 1329.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bileca, allows students who have a 504 plan access to the McKay Scholarship. These are students with disabilities recognized under the American with Disabilities Act but who do not have an Individualized Education Plan.
Currently, these students may receive certain accommodations, but because of the diverse needs of students with disabilities, many times the accommodations are not sufficient or, as they grow older, are not maintained. The passage of this bill will allow parents options to go to either public or private schools that may have a more appropriate program.
According to Florida Department of Education, 51,000 students are on a 504 plan in Florida. It is anticipated that approximately 10% of parents would utilize this option based on the percentage of ESE students that utilize the McKay Scholarship.
This would be an income-neutral program because the scholarship amount the student is eligible for will be based “on the current student program cost factor”. The money that is allocated to the child in the public school would simply follow the child to the program the parents choose.
The bill will continue to the next committee in the House. Senator Wise has a similar bill, SB 1656, which will be heard in the Senate Education Committee next week.
Robyn A. Rennick
The Coalition of McKay Scholarship Schools