Step Up For Students


Did you know Step Up For Students helps administer TWO scholarships for Florida children?

The Personal Learning Scholarship Accounts (PLSA) helps families personalize educational plans for their children with certain special needs. Students age 3 through 12th grade may be eligible if they are diagnosed with one of the following: Autism Spectrum Disorder, including Asperger’s, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Prader-Willi syndrome, Spina Bifida, Williams Syndrome, or an Intellectual Disability (severe cognitive impairment). Students who are in kindergarten, deemed “high risk” due to developmental delays and, not older than 5 on Sept. 1, may be eligible for the year they apply. The PLSA allows parents to direct scholarship funds toward a combination of programs and approved providers including private schools, therapists, specialists, curriculum, and technology – even a college savings account.

Another option is the Income-based Florida Tax Credit Scholarship (FTC), a program that provides financial assistance to low-income families with K-12 students to help pay for private school tuition and fees, or for transportation costs to attend a public school in another county. If a family’s household income qualifies for the free or reduced-price school lunch program (185% of the federal poverty guidelines0, or if the family receives SNAP (food stamps), TANF, or FDPIR, the student may be eligible.
Children who are homeless, or in foster or out-of-home care, also may be eligible for either of these TWO scholarships.

Step Up For Students in a nonprofit approved by the state to help administer both programs. To learn more, visit

Classroom Accommodations


By: Anastasia Gaertner

Children who have a learning disability and may be struggling to cartoon of a school house with an Americana flag on the left.reach their full potential in the classroom could require an accommodation or a modification to help them thrive. An accommodation is a change in the way that a student takes in information or communicates their knowledge back to the teacher, but it does not alter the standards or expectations for the subjects or tests. A modification is a change in the delivery, content, and instructional level of information for a student. It is a change in what the student is taught and what is expected of them on assessments of learning. These kinds of adjustments are tailored to each student’s strengths and areas of difficulty to provide them with the most beneficial learning environment.

A six year old’s fight to have his seizure dog at school.




Disability Independence Group filed a federal lawsuit against the Broward School Board, alleging the district discriminated against Anthony Merchante, a first grader, for imposing too many barriers to bringing his service dog to his elementary school. Anthony Marchante lives with cerebral palsy and is highly prone to seizures. His medium-sized terrier service dog, Stevie, alerts others to oncoming convulsions and helps calm the boy by licking his face. Anthony’s mother, Monica Alboniga said the district at first denied Stevie access to Nob Hill Elementary in Sunrise this year, demanding that she provide liability insurance for the dog and additional vaccinations that did not exist. Stevie was prescribed by Anthony’s neurologist at Miami Children’s Hospital and is part of Anthony’s treatment protocol. In order to be a service animal, the dog must have a temperament that allows it to stay focused on its job. Any dog that would be a direct threat to others would not be a suitable service animal. There cannot be insurance requirements or other conditions that a governmental entity or a public accommodation can place on a service animal. When Anthony’s mom initially brought this matter to the press and requested help and obtained publicity, the school board relented, and allowed Anthony to go to school with his service animal. Then, the School Board shifted tactics and demanded that Monica provide a handler for the dog since the child was not capable of doing so. Monica was required to go school every day just to care for Stevie but she was not allowed to help her son with any other activities. As a service animal, Stevie is trained to stay with Anthony and is constantly tethered to Anthony’s wheelchair, and does not eat or poop during the school day. Since it is legally required under Florida and Federal law, the Broward School Board is allowing the seizure alert and protect dog, but refuses to include the dog in Anthony’s care plan, and maintains that it has no duty to provide a handler for the dog as it disagrees with the medical prescription of Anthony’s neurologist. The Board maintains that caring for the service animal is a “personal service” of which it has no duty. However, as a child with a disability, the school board provides services from feeding to toileting for Anthony, but it considers tethering and untethering a dog from Anthony’s wheelchair is a “personal service” that is more of a burden than feeding or toileting Anthony. Further, even though Stevie was prescribed by Anthony’s neurologist, the School Board contends that this prescribed service is not necessary. However, Anthony’s care plan includes the insertion of a Diastat suppository in the event that Anthony has a seizure, but not the services performed by the dog.
Ms. Alboniga’s suit, filed last month, claims the district is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and The Rehabilitation Act by implementing excessive procedural hurdles. She’s asking the district to amend its policies and ensure that she and Anthony are not forced to fight this matter throughout the rest of Anthony’s schooling, which may last until he is 23 years old.



All cases are dependent on many factors that may or may not be present in all cases. As such, results may not be typical. You may not have as beneficial a result.