Let me start by saying that I kind of hate the McKay Scholarship. I know many of you out there are using it now or plan to use it in the future and you are reasonably happy that it lets you have some choice in where and how your child is educated. I suspect the law was probably even created with good intentions. Still, education law is complicated on a good day and McKay just makes it worse. So here are the top things parents need to consider when considering McKay.
1.) It probably will not pay for the whole cost of tuition. Depending on what your child’s Matrix score is (another blog for another day), the costs above McKay could be several thousand dollars above what you get back from the district.
2.) It does not cover transportation. Remember two sentences ago when I told you McKay would cost you money, it is also going to cost you money in the form of gas, time and mileage.
3.) You may not be eligible. If your child was not counted in both the October and February FDOE enrollment counts then you must wait a year before you can access McKay.
4.) It is the district’s obligation to educate your child and provide them with FAPE. Taking the McKay scholarship lets them off the hook. I have heard many times at IEP meetings school staff tell parents that if you are not satisfied with the services, you can always take McKay. While it is understandable that parents might want an escape from the constant IEP battle, it often means school programs remain subpar.
5.) Remember, IDEA requires the district to place your child in a private placement when they cannot offer the appropriate services. A private placement made through an IEP meeting or through due process complaint will cover all tuition and transportation costs.
6.) Even good private schools often don’t have as many services as public schools. Taking the McKay route might lose your special needs child some services like occupational therapy or counseling.
7.) There may not be space at the private school you want. Even if money and time are not a big deal for you, the McKay scholarship does not guarantee you a spot at the private school you want. You may be stuck in public school for months waiting and wasting valuable educational time.
I don’t want to say that there are never situations where parents should consider McKay as an option. It has its moments, but they are fewer than I think most parents realize.