Oct 03, 2023

(BATON ROUGE, LA) - The Louisiana Department of Education (LDOE) has been awarded $10 million to improve career opportunities for students with disabilities. Louisiana is one of 20 states to receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) Pathways to Partnerships. The innovative project supports partnerships between state vocational rehabilitation agencies, state and local educational agencies, and centers for independent living to help individuals with disabilities seamlessly transition to life after high school.

“We are excited about this opportunity to further support students with disabilities as they transition to successful lives beyond high school,” said Louisiana State Superintendent of Education Dr. Cade Brumley. “Connecting more students with career opportunities is part of our broader efforts to improve the quality of special education programming statewide, providing greater access to information and services for families and higher quality programming for students.”

Louisiana will pilot a framework that facilitates collaboration between high schools and Louisiana Rehabilitation Services (LRS), streamlining the transition into a career for individuals with disabilities. The pilot will provide comprehensive training for students with disabilities in career exploration and job readiness. The pilot will focus on innovative activities that develop career opportunities such as internships and apprenticeships for students with disabilities.

Dr. Brumley issued a letter to system leaders in August outlining a number of steps the LDOE is taking to upgrade outdated special education systems and processes, provide greater support and oversight, and improve outcomes for students with disabilities. These include:

  • Special Education Playbook: The LDOE’s Playbook has already earned the praise of education experts across the nation. It’s a set of best practices and a call to action to close achievement gaps for students with disabilities. This resource condenses years of research into three best instructional practices to support students with disabilities. The LDOE is hosting a statewide tour this month to support school systems with implementation.
  • Enhanced Family Support: The LDOE will employ a Special Education Ombudsman with authority to hold confidential conversations with parents. The agency is also adding  an additional complaint investigator.
  • Enhanced Teacher and Leader Support: This includes technical support through statewide access to special education law and compliance training, staff to support school systems with special education compliance, and the possible placement of a special master with direct oversight authority over special educational programming within a system. This LDOE oversight tool would be reserved for systems with extensive, repeated, and/or high-level areas of concern.

Administered by the ED’s Rehabilitation Services Administration, Pathways to Partnerships is the largest discretionary grant of its kind. It strengthens Louisiana’s ongoing efforts to expand access to high school credentials, post-secondary education, or employment through multiple graduation pathways.

Pathways to Partnership recipients are awarded full funding for a five-year project period – meaning successful applicants receive all project funds at the beginning of year one. Through the five-year project period, award recipients will pilot, refine and implement their proposed projects while also collecting and analyzing project data.