The state’s top school board Wednesday approved a $251,000 contract to help with a problem-plagued law that is supposed to assist some special education students in earning a high school diploma.
The agreement is with the LSU Human Development Center, which is part of the Health Sciences Center in New Orleans.
The center will assist the state Department of Education in training educators and parents who aid the students.
Those groups are called Individual Education Program teams.
A 2014 state law allows the teams to craft alternate paths to graduation for special education students who qualify, regardless of how they fare on standardized tests that other students have to pass.
But the changes have sparked controversy for months, including just what IEP teams are supposed to do without running afoul of federal law.
State Superintendent of Education John White, whose agency has been criticized for supposedly failing to provide enough guidance, said approval of the contract by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is a major step.
“It couldn’t be more critical,” White said during committee discussion of the contract on Tuesday.
He added Wednesday, “We are getting beyond the policy debates in Baton Rouge and getting to actually how people do their work with kids every day.”
The contract won BESE approval without debate.
Under the plan, the Human Development Center will assist the department in providing IEP teams with guidance on how to use the new law.
Six regional events also will be held.
New IEPs were supposed to be in place at the start of the 2014-15 school year, shortly after the overhaul became law.
State officials delayed that requirement until this month amid complaints that the initial deadline spelled out in the law was unrealistic since the state has about 75,000 IEP teams.
Last week, a task force that oversees the law voted to seek assurances that the overhaul will not run afoul of federal law.
Some special education leaders have said those concerns have delayed the rollout of the measure.
Federal officials have said the law raises red flags, and could threaten federal aid, because it treats students with disabilities differently and allows them to collect a diploma even if they have failed to pass state assessments required for other students.
Louisiana has one of the lowest rates nationally of special education students who earn traditional high school diplomas.
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