Lakeland school for students with autism faces federal cuts

School voluntary withdraws from state funding

LAKELAND, Fla. - Parents are panicking and pulling their children out of a school for special needs.

ABC Action News found out, Monarch School, a Lakeland education system for children with Autism, voluntarily withdrew from a state funding program back in June. Only now are parents finding out about it.

“There's parents that still don't know that this is going on,” Tiffany Stafford, a parent, explained.

Stafford says she only found out because she heard teachers were not being paid by the school and started digging into it, using the Florida Department of Education.

ABC Action News followed in her footsteps, contacting the Florida Department of Education and found out the same information.

According to the state, the Monarch School is not in compliance and hasn’t submitted the necessary documents to apply for its students’ McKay Scholarships. McKay Scholarships help fund the needs for children with disabilities.

Many of those programs are offered by McKay, but parents say the school has not delivered on those programs like speech and occupational therapy.

“No money has been paid for for my son scholarship as well as no other child at the school,” Stafford said.

Stafford’s son, Tyler was enrolled at the school for students with autism. She believed his McKay Scholarship, along with 67 others had already been applied for and accepted. But, the school voluntarily withdrew its application nearly three months ago, without telling parents.

“It's nothing I would thought it would be,” Lisa Booker, a parent flagged ABC Action News down on the streets to tell us about her experience with the school.

Lisa Booker took her child who suffers from seizures out of the school last year, she says after noticing several red flags.

“There was no cafeteria so I had to purchase canisters to keep your food warm, I had to bring a chair for her to sit in,” Booker said.

We tried to talk with the head of the Monarch School, Sandy Coggins, instead the school posted a statement to its Facebook page.

“Over the last several weeks, we have been in the process of restructuring, ensuring funding to allow the school to continue to function,” a portion of the statement reads.

In the statement, the school also ensures parents it does not have an intention to close the school. However, parents aren't sure how they will continue to run the school without money.

“I’m over it I'm done, I'm not going to be associated with that,” Tiffany Stafford said when asked if she was angry or upset with the situation.

According to the Florida Department of Education, the documents required to become in compliance with the state have not been submitted.

McKay Scholarships for students with disabilities will not be approved if paperwork is not completed by the school by Monday, October, 2.

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