May 12, 2017

Grant Process Will Involve Competitive Search for Partnerships to Serve Students with Disabilities

BATON ROUGE, La.-The Louisiana Department of Education announced today it has submitted to the federal government a proposal regarding how the state would allocate nearly $25 million in annual grant funding authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The Department's application signals a shift to using a competitive process for awarding contracts that meet the needs of children with disabilities across the state.
The IDEA provides funds for special education and related services for children with disabilities and provides state-level funds for focused support. Each year the state is required to submit an application outlining how state level IDEA funds will be used to support improved outcomes for students with disabilities in 15 different categories.
"Historically, Louisiana's IDEA grant applications have been developed with an emphasis on continuing existing activities and partnerships and making minor spending adjustments based on cost inflation and feedback from the field," said State Superintendent John White. "While there is value in the continuity of how state level IDEA funds are spent, it also limits the state's ability to be responsive to current needs of students, school systems and the special education community. That will no longer be the case."
Under the new process, the Department worked with a group of parents, educators and other stakeholders to identify a set of key priorities and activities to be accomplished using the grant funds. Over the next few months, the Department will execute a competitive search for partners that can carry out those priorities and activities. The Department will then negotiate contracts with partners identified through the competitive process for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) to consider.
"It is important we reform how we use state level IDEA funds to support Louisiana's students with disabilities and focus our efforts on activities that are aligned to priorities and produce positive outcomes," said BESE Member Sandy Holloway, who leads the Special Education Advisory Panel. "Seeking partnerships to carry out state-level activities through a competitive process will provide the Department and stakeholders a transparent understanding of who is best positioned to deliver on activities that support improved outcomes for our students with disabilities."
The priorities identified by the working group are:
  • Building a workforce that is prepared to respond to the needs of all students with disabilities;
  • Developing standards-aligned tools and resources that support the growth of students with disabilities and minimizes redundant work across the state;
  • Providing support for understanding and appropriately responding to the unique ways different disabilities manifest in the classroom; and
  • Establishing structures that ensure students have their individual needs identified and appropriately supported provided as early as possible and ensure students experience effective transitions to life after high school.
"Louisiana believes that all students, even those with the most significant disabilities, deserve an education that prepares them to be independent and successful in life after high school," said BESE Member Kathy Edmonston,a known special education advocate. "The state's IDEA application mirrors that sentiment."
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