Nearly one in five public schools in Louisiana is rated D or F, and the state on Monday launched a $20 million annual effort to improve them.

The state Department of Education announced that it is seeking applications for improvement grants, with the first deadline set for Sept. 29.

The effort stems from the states's plan to revamp public schools to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

Officials of the U.S. Department of Education announced last week that they were approving Louisiana's blueprint, which took effect for the 2017-18 school year.

The plan requires school district officials to put together detailed improvement proposals for D and F schools that have been ranked that way for three consecutive years.

The state has a total of 225 schools repeatedly rated D and F, 17 percent of the total statewide.

State officials will review the ideas, then award improvement grants for the best.

That assistance will continue for three years.

"ESSA creates an opportunity for us to ask new questions about what we want for our kids," state Superintendent of Education John White said in a statement.

"Chief among them: What do we do in a school that continually ranks at the bottom?" White asked. "A school that fails to improve over time?"

"The newly announced School Redesign Grant provides an opportunity for school systems to answer those questions in a way that fits their unique needs," he said.

The program will be financed through a mandatory, 7 percent set aside of federal education dollars that assist disadvantaged students.

The second round of applications will be due in March.

One of the key aims of the federal law is to assist struggling public school students.

Earlier this year the state held a school redesign "summit" that allowed school system officials to interact with firms that can assist them in coming up with improvement plans.

Afterwards planning grants of up to $50,000 each, and $1.3 million in all, were awarded to 54 school systems.

One of the organizations at the January gathering was the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching, whose president is former Ascension Parish Superintendent Patrice Pujol.

In a statement, Pujol said her group offers a model for change for struggling schools.

"School reform is not one-size-fits-all," Pujol said. 

"But one factor remains true across the board: The quality of the classroom teacher is key to student success," she said.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.