Aug 14, 2012

$4 million in federal funds cut from bureaucracy to fund schools serving students with disabilities

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Louisiana Department of Education today launched Believe and Include, a $4 million competitive grant program that will provide funding to schools to develop innovative programs that help students with disabilities achieve proficiency of the more rigorous Common Core State Standards.  Existing federal funding for projects within the bureaucracy was repurposed to spur innovation in schools that will directly impact student achievement.  The program is part of Louisiana Believes, the state’s comprehensive plan to empower educators closest to students to make decisions about instruction in the classroom.

"If you believe all students can learn then you must believe students with disabilities can achieve academic excellence," said John White, State Superintendent of Education.  "If you believe the adults closest to our children are best positioned to make informed daily decisions to drive achievement, then we must empower them to do so."

Believe and Include will provide funding to support policies and programs that ensure students with special needs receive a high quality education that prepares them for success as the state implements Common Core State Standards.  The grant program is seeking replicable, scalable solutions in staffing, planning, scheduling, technology or other tools, which allow students with disabilities to learn and perform in the least restrictive environment.  The Department is funding Believe and Include by redirecting federal funding provided under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) from centralized programs to school districts and local school leaders.  By consolidating staffing and resources within the state agency, ending contracts to manage websites, eliminating unnecessary professional development workshops and eliminating other low-impact projects, the Department identified funding for the project.

Applications for Believe and Include are due September 15, and grant recipients will be announced in October.  Each grant application must include at least three partner schools.  Three public schools, traditional or charter, inside a district can partner and apply through the district office which will serve as the fiscal agent for the partnership.  Unaffiliated charter schools (Type 2, 4 and 5 charter schools) will have the ability to partner together to submit a consortium application indicating which charter operator will serve as the lead fiscal agent.  The Department anticipates minimum grant awards to be $50,000 per partner school for a total of $150,000 per grant.  For more on the application process, please click here.

Priority will be given to applications that develop innovative strategies that are tied to measurable and timely goals, establish additional support structures to promote academic achievement, and reduce the achievement gap for students with disabilities.  Priority will also be given to schools that develop coordinated early intervention services that reduce the number of at-risk students who are ultimately classified as special education.

"During the last decade, Louisiana has raised student achievement among students with disabilities," said White.  "Last year, nearly three times as many students with disabilities were reading on grade level in 8th grade based on state assessments, compared to 2001. But much more needs to be done to close the achievement gap for students with disabilities."


# # #