The Lafayette Parish school system has received a $86,450 grant to expand career and training opportunities for special-education students, the parish’s share of $4 million in federal funding distributed by the Louisiana Department of Education for that purpose.

The “Building Pathways to High School Diplomas for Students with Disabilities Opportunity Grants” were awarded to 55 districts, 10 charter schools and the Louisiana Schools for the Deaf and Visually Impaired.

The grant money will pay to train and certify teachers to teach career education courses so students can receive industry-recognized credentials in areas such as tourism and the food industry, said Bart Thibodeaux, Lafayette Parish special-education director.

The grant also may be used to purchase new equipment and curriculum and to create new partnerships to expand students’ workplace training opportunities; however, Lafayette Parish opted to focus on training, Thibodeaux said.

“We have a community-based program for students with them doing career exploration in the community. We saw the deficit area for us was really in the area of credentialed instructors,” he said. “In order to promote more students in the program, we need more credentialed instructors.”

The grant funding supports the state’s revamp of its career diploma program — Jump Start — that ensures all students are more adequately prepared for life after high school, whether it’s with increased options to earn college credit or career training and credentials in high school.

High school graduation rates among students with disabilities have improved from 29.3 percent in 2010-11 to 36.7 percent in 2012-13, based on a news release from the Education Department announcing the grant funding.

Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.