Dear State Special Education and State Vocational Rehabilitation Agency Directors,
Partnership and collaboration are key to raising the bar for students with disabilities. Through sharing knowledge, experience, ideas, and resources, State vocational rehabilitation (VR) agencies and State and local educational agencies (SEAs and LEAs) can significantly change the lives of students with disabilities as they transition from secondary to postsecondary education and training. Your voice and input are vitally important to creating the path to employment, independence, and opportunities for self-sufficiency for this and future generations of students with disabilities. This letter is intended to make you aware of an upcoming opportunity for meaningful collaboration in your state.
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) requires States to develop and regularly update their WIOA State Plans. These plans outline a four-year strategy for each State or Territory’s workforce development system, and how those systems can help Americans—including students and youth and those with significant barriers (including disability)—achieve employment and secure high-quality jobs and careers while meeting employers’ workforce needs. State VR agencies currently are in the process of developing their WIOA State plans, which will be in effect from 2024 through 2027.
Collaboration is needed to ensure that State VR agencies benefit from the input of key stakeholders like SEA and LEA special education leaders on the strategic development and implementation of their plans. The combined expertise of SEAs, LEAs, and VR agencies in working with students with disabilities will strengthen the efforts and accomplishments of all involved and will result in enriching the lives of students with disabilities as they transition to adulthood.
As an SEA or LEA—
- You may serve as an appointed member of the State Rehabilitation Council (SRC), which reviews, evaluates, and advises the State VR agency regarding its performance on the delivery of services and the achievement of employment outcomes by individuals with disabilities. SRCs are often described as the “voice of the community” and help to ensure stakeholders are heard as State VR agencies develop and implement policies and procedures that directly affect the individuals served by VR agencies.
- You can participate in your State VR agency’s Comprehensive Statewide Needs Assessment, which typically occurs every three years, to gain a better understanding of the VR service needs of individuals in your State or Territory. The input gained from those assessments helps to inform each State VR Agency’s goals, priorities, and strategies in their WIOA State Plan, particularly those that improve and expand VR services for students with disabilities, including the coordination of services designed to facilitate the transition of these students from school to postsecondary life.
- You can assist the State VR agency in identifying personnel needs related to serving students with disabilities with your input on the Comprehensive System of Personnel Development section of the VR services portion of the WIOA State Plan.
- You have an ideal opportunity as a signatory of the State Educational Agency agreement required under the Rehabilitation Act to partner with VR agencies to leverage and access resources, identify responsibilities, ensure the delivery of transition and pre-employment transition services, and coordinate activities (e.g., professional training, sharing of evidence-based practices, data sharing) to assist students with disabilities. As an LEA, similar agreements can be made locally. These SEA agreements and innovative practices are highlighted in the VR services portion of the WIOA State Plan.
- You can strategize how to meaningfully engage State VR agencies in individualized education program (IPE) meetings to assist with planning for transition and accessing VR services.
As VR agencies—
- You can proactively reach out to SEAs and LEAs to solicit input to the VR services portion of the WIOA State Plan to help inform and develop strategies and goals, particularly as they relate to serving students with disabilities.
- You can ensure that representatives of educational agencies are members of the SRC.
- You can invite educational agencies to participate in the comprehensive statewide needs assessment, particularly as it relates to the needs related to the provision of pre-employment transition services and transition services for students with disabilities.
- You can notify educational officials of public hearings related to the WIOA State Plan and resources for reviewing and commenting on the plan.
- You can work with SEAs and LEAs to identify personnel and training needs to effectively serve students with disabilities.
If you are not already collaborating, now is a great time to get started, as State VR agencies develop their 2024 WIOA State Plans. If you are a State Director of Special Education, you can ask your OSEP Part B State Lead how to get involved, and they will make sure you get connected to the right people. RSA also maintains a list of state VR agencies and directors on its website that you can use to find contact information for VR colleagues in your state: https://rsa.ed.gov/about/states.
Working in partnership, we can raise expectations, engage, and empower students with disabilities and their families through our mutual efforts to ensure they receive high quality education and the supports and services our programs can provide to “raise the bar”!
|Valerie C. Williams
Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP)
|Danté Q. Allen
Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA)
Last modified on January 29, 2024