- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - A special panel has voted to seek assurances that Louisiana’s overhaul of its special education system will avoid running afoul of federal law.

The committee did so after hearing a new series of complaints about the measure by some district special education officials who say that legal worries are posing still another impediment.

If state education leaders are able to get written assurances from federal officials, Scott Richard, executive director of the Louisiana School Boards Association, says that would be a good first step in the right direction.

The Advocate reports (https://bit.ly/14yCPnr ) the committee also asked the state Department of Education to send letters to all 69 school districts advising them that they can carry out the state law amid some local concerns that doing so could endanger federal aid.

The committee also asked the state Department of Education to send letters to all 69 school districts advising them that they can carry out the state law amid some local concerns that doing so could endanger federal aid.

Richard is a member of the Act 833 Leadership Steering Committee, which refers to the 2014 state law that is designed to make it easier for special education students to earn a traditional high school diploma.

The key change allows educators, parents and others who advise the students - they are called Individualized Education Plan teams - to chart an alternative path to graduation regardless of how the students fare on standardized tests. But the new rules have sparked months of controversy and delays on how to do that, and threats from federal officials last year that the changes may violate U.S. laws and could jeopardize Louisiana’s federal public school aid.

Federal officials said the law raises concerns because it treats students with disabilities differently, and allows them to collect a diploma even if they failed to pass state assessments required for other students.

State Superintendent of Education John White has downplayed those comments, and department leaders who attended the meeting said federal officials are aware that the state measure is being rolled out.

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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