U.S. Department of Education Awards Nearly $199 Million to Improve Career Opportunities for Students with Disabilities Through Partnerships

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This article is a press release published by the U.S. Department of Education on September 15, 2023. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA) announced today it will fund 20 model demonstration projects focused on improving economic self-sufficiency for children and youth with disabilities by creating systemic approaches to enhance post-school outcomes.

The nearly $199 million in funding for the Pathways to Partnerships innovative model demonstration project supports collaborative partnerships between state vocational rehabilitation agencies, state and local educational agencies, and federally funded centers for independent living to help individuals with disabilities seamlessly transition to life after high school, preparing them for independent living, competitive integrated employment and community integration. Pathways to Partnerships is the largest discretionary grant ever administered by RSA.

“The Department is committed to providing children and youth with disabilities the supports they need to access self-advocacy training, career pathways and independent living. The Pathways to Partnerships will bridge gaps from school to adult life, independent living, and career success,” said Glenna Wright-Gallo, Assistant Secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), which oversees RSA. “This investment will not only require state and local agencies to improve outcomes for individuals with disabilities by finding innovative ways of working together, but it will also look to unlock post school and career success for those individuals.”

Pathways to Partnerships, part of the Disability Innovation Fund program aimed at increasing for youth and other individuals with disabilities, serves as a step to improving economic self-sufficiency and decreasing the unemployment disparity between youth without disabilities and youth with disabilities.

This announcement builds on a key component of the Department’s “Raise the Bar: Lead the World” initiative to support individuals from underserved communities, ensure every student has a pathway to college or a career, and improve transition services for students with disabilities.

The Department awarded recipients of the Pathways to Partnership grants the 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.

The following agencies received Pathways to Partnerships innovative model demonstration project funding:

State Agency Funding Level

Alaska Department of Education and Early Development

Arkansas Arkansas Department of Education/ Division of Elementary and Secondary Education $9,913,236
Colorado Colorado Labor & Employment, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation $14,116,234.89
Connecticut Connecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services/Bureau of Rehabilitation Services $10,000,000
Georgia Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency $10,588,912
Idaho Idaho State Department of Education/Special Education $9,798,372.94
Illinois Illinois Department of Human Services/  Division of Rehabilitation Services $10,000,000
Kansas Kansas Department of Education/Division of Learning Services $8,442,103
Kentucky Kentucky Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Early Learning $9,942,934
Louisiana Louisiana Department of Education $10,000,000
Maine Maine Division of Vocational Rehabilitation $7,632,256
Maryland Maryland State Department of Education/ Rehabilitation Services $9,989,423
New Jersey New Jersey Department of Education, Office of Special Education $8,667,855
New Mexico New Mexico Public Education Department, Office of Inclusive Education $9,943,500
Nevada Nevada Department of Education/Office of Inclusive Education $9,964,894.81
Oklahoma Oklahoma State Department of Education $9,992,898
Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry/Office of Vocational Rehabilitation $9,990,688.97
South Carolina South Carolina Department of Education $9,992,013
Vermont Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living/Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired $10,000,000
Wyoming Wyoming Division of Vocational Rehabilitation $10,000,000