(1) The Adults with Disabilities Workforce Education Pilot Program is established in the Department of Education for 2 years in Hardee, DeSoto, Manatee, and Sarasota Counties to provide the option of receiving a scholarship for instruction at private schools for up to 30 students who:
(a) Have a disability;
(b) Are 22 years of age;
(c) Are receiving instruction from an instructor in a private school to meet the high school graduation requirements in s. 1003.428 or s. 1003.4282;
(d) Do not have a standard high school diploma or a special high school diploma; and
(e) Receive “supported employment services,” which means employment that is located or provided in an integrated work setting with earnings paid on a commensurate wage basis and for which continued support is needed for job maintenance.
As used in this section, the term “student with a disability” includes a student who is documented as having an intellectual disability; a speech impairment; a language impairment; a hearing impairment, including deafness; a visual impairment, including blindness; a dual sensory impairment; an orthopedic impairment; another health impairment; an emotional or behavioral disability; a specific learning disability, including, but not limited to, dyslexia, dyscalculia, or developmental aphasia; a traumatic brain injury; a developmental delay; or autism spectrum disorder.
(2) A student participating in the pilot program may continue to participate in the program until the student graduates from high school or reaches the age of 30 years, whichever occurs first.
(3) Supported employment services may be provided at more than one site.
(4) The provider of supported employment services must be a nonprofit corporation under s. 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code which serves Hardee County, DeSoto County, Manatee County, or Sarasota County and must contract with a private school in this state which meets the requirements in subsection (5).
(5) A private school that participates in the pilot program may be sectarian or nonsectarian and must:
(a) Be academically accountable for meeting the educational needs of the student by annually providing to the provider of supported employment services a written explanation of the student’s progress.
(b) Comply with the antidiscrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. s. 2000d.
(c) Meet state and local health and safety laws and codes.
(d) Provide to the provider of supported employment services all documentation required for a student’s participation, including the private school’s and student’s fee schedules, at least 30 days before any quarterly scholarship payment is made for the student. A student is not eligible to receive a quarterly scholarship payment if the private school fails to meet this deadline.
The inability of a private school to meet the requirements of this subsection constitutes a basis for the ineligibility of the private school to participate in the pilot program.
(6)(a) If the student chooses to participate in the pilot program and is accepted by the provider of supported employment services, the student must notify the Department of Education of his or her acceptance into the program 60 days before the first scholarship payment and before participating in the pilot program in order to be eligible for the scholarship.
(b) Upon receipt of a scholarship warrant, the student or parent to whom the warrant is made must restrictively endorse the warrant to the provider of supported employment services for deposit into the account of the provider. The student or parent may not designate any entity or individual associated with the participating provider of supported employment services as the student’s or parent’s attorney in fact to endorse a scholarship warrant. A participant who fails to comply with this paragraph forfeits the scholarship.
(7) Funds for the scholarship shall be provided from the appropriation from the school district’s Workforce Development Fund in the General Appropriations Act for students who reside in the Hardee County School District, the DeSoto County School District, the Manatee County School District, or the Sarasota County School District. During the 2-year pilot program, the scholarship amount granted for an eligible student with a disability shall be equal to the cost per unit of a full-time equivalent adult general education student, multiplied by the adult general education funding factor, and multiplied by the district cost differential pursuant to the formula required by s. 1011.80(6)(a) for the district in which the student resides.
(8) Upon notification by the Department of Education that it has received the required documentation, the Chief Financial Officer shall make scholarship payments in four equal amounts no later than September 1, November 1, February 1, and April 1 of each academic year in which the scholarship is in force. The initial payment shall be made after the Department of Education verifies that the student was accepted into the pilot program, and subsequent payments shall be made upon verification of continued participation in the pilot program. Payment must be by individual warrant made payable to the student or parent and mailed by the Department of Education to the provider of supported employment services, and the student or parent shall restrictively endorse the warrant to the provider of supported employment services for deposit into the account of that provider.
(9) Subsequent to each scholarship payment, the Department of Education shall request from the Department of Financial Services a sample of endorsed warrants to review and confirm compliance with endorsement requirements.