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Tampa Charter School Focused on Free Public Education for Children with Disabilities Amidst School Voucher Challenges


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Tampa Charter School Focused on Free Public Education for Children with Disabilities Amidst School Voucher Challenges


TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. (November 10, 2023) — Earlier this week, a special legislative session was set with the Florida House and Senate to release proposals that “might” lead to more students with disabilities receiving school vouchers to cover costs of expensive private curriculums. Meanwhile, Focus Academy, an Exceptional Student Education (ESE) charter school in the Hillsborough County Public School System wants the parents to know they don’t require vouchers and primarily serve children and young adults with disabilities, tuition free.

According to Senate and House analyses, the proposals (HB 3C and SB 4-C) would effectively lift a cap this school year on students who receive vouchers under the program, known as the Family Empowerment Scholarship for Students with Unique Abilities. And under a formula in law, the program was capped at 40,913 students this year alone: that’s up from 26,500 students during the 2022-2023 school year. And the staff analyses do not include estimates of how many students could get the aid. The vouchers can be used for a variety of services in addition to private-school tuition. For example, they can be used for instructional materials, tutoring and fees for specialized summer and after-school programs.

Focus Academy Principal Elisabeth Kraft said, “In the state of Florida, school vouchers face challenges in ensuring equitable access for students with disabilities. Many voucher programs lack sufficient regulations to guarantee that private schools receiving funds accommodate students with diverse needs. As a result, some private institutions may not be adequately equipped or willing to provide the necessary support services for students with disabilities, leading to exclusion and a lack of equal educational opportunities. Additionally, the allocation of vouchers may not consider the extra costs associated with special education, further hindering access for students who require additional resources. Focus Academy is a free ESE public charter school, providing IEP and other specialized education for students from 6th grade to young adults up to 22-years-old, and this makes us a great option for parents and for students with disabilities struggling with the voucher issues.”

According to Kraft, Focus Academy have trained and certified teachers and the curriculum at is structured with dual purposes: academic achievement and social success. Many students are scholastically capable but are hindered by struggles in dealing with peers. The charter school offers differentiated, individualized instruction, but emphasizes a full school experience including creative arts, physical education, field trips, and state of the art technology. Focus Academy utilizes the Access Points curriculum, a modified curriculum which tailors instruction to each student’s academic level and goals. This curriculum choice also allows for more flexibility in teaching — as well as in learning. All of this, and more, is free to students with disabilities due to the academy’s public school charter status.

Interested parents, guardians and/or students may contact Focus Academy at 813-443-5558 for a guided campus tour or may learn more about the application process for the fall semester by visiting www.focusacademyflorida.org.

About Focus Academy
Focus Academy is a free ESE public charter school within the Hillsborough County Public School System that provides IEP and other specialized education for students from 6th grade through ages 22. Our students have disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Intellectually Disabled and Other Health Impaired. Social skills therapies are incorporated into the curriculum for a seamless learning experience with the goal of enhancing independence and social connection. transitioning into the real world. The school includes a Middle School, High School, and a Transition Program

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