Louisiana awarded $115 million in federal grants for education

The Louisiana Department of Education received five competitive federal grant awards from the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), focusing on literacy, mental health, STEM, and special education, totaling $115 million.

The grants, which vary in dollar amount and length, will enhance literacy programming and instruction; expand direct mental health services for students, including those who are historically disadvantaged and those who have experienced trauma; create opportunities for teachers to earn credentials in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, known as STEM, fields; and establish a leadership program for current and aspiring special education administrators, according to a press release from the State Dept. of Education.

“The U.S. Department of Education continues to recognize Louisiana as a state that generates creative ideas to solve critical problems,” State Superintendent John White said in a prepared statement. “These five new awards will support the implementation of plans to address many of our schools’ and students’ greatest challenges. We look forward to collaborating with state agencies, school systems and community partners to implement effective solutions to these pressing concerns.”

The awards include:

The Comprehensive Literacy State Development Program Grant, totaling $100 million over five years, which provide additional support for schools identified as having low academic performance overall or among certain groups of students. The grant will help schools purchase top-rated reading curricula and instructional materials, provide educators with professional development, implement interventions to support students who struggle with reading, and roll-out evidence-based literacy resources for families, according to the DOE.

Over the five-year grant period, Louisiana aims to serve 600 high-needs schools and early childhood education providers, 2,000 local leaders, 9,600 teachers, and 240,000 disadvantaged children.

The Trauma Recovery Grant, totaling $7.5 million over five years, will help Louisiana increase access to mental health services in order to boost academic performance and decrease absence and discipline rates. The state education department and Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) will work with community agencies to provide direct mental health services for students who have experienced trauma, with a particular focus on low-income, foster, homeless, and migrant students.

The initiative builds on a previous grant-funded project developed by the Tulane University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and also expands the Department’s Counselor Assistance Center, which currently provides academic and post-secondary planning support to school counselors and high school students.

The Improving Pre-Engineering and Computer Science Education through Micro-credentialing Grant, totaling $4 million over four years, develops a certification pathway for teachers to earn certifications for their expertise in STEM fields, including pre-engineering and computer science. It complements the expansion of STEM Pathways, part of the state’s nationally recognized Jump Start career and technical education initiative.

The Mental Health Service Professional Demonstration Grant, totaling $2.5 million over five years, funds a partnership between the Department and LSU School of Social Work to create the “Louisiana School Social Work Expansion Project,” an effort to expand and strengthen the school-based mental health workforce. It focuses particularly at sites with a high number of economically disadvantaged students and with high rates of teacher turnover.

The Special Education Leadership Grant, totaling $1 million over five years, establishes a “Special Education Leader Fellowship” year-long program for aspiring and novice special education leaders across the state. It provides in-person training, coaching, and a community of practice for the next generation of leaders to help improve outcomes for students with disabilities. The new program will build upon the state’s existing and successful fellowship programs for educators and administrators, like the Principal Leader Fellowship Program and the Content Leader pathway.

The state department of education plans to formalize partnerships with other agencies and soon provide information to school systems about how they can access the services supported by these grants.

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