The U.S. Department of Education’s Rehabilitation Services Administration recently announced that it is funding  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 — including more than $8.6 million awarded to New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Special Education — 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 abstract for the New Jersey project that was funded reads:

“The Collaborations in Transition NJ (CITNJ) will increase achievement in competitive integrated employment by improving interagency collaboration of transition services and creating a state-wide transition website that incorporates user-friendly resources on transition services for children and youth with disabilities. The CITNJ Project will initially focus on three distinct LEAs located in different regions of the state. Newark is an urban city located in the northeast section of the state, Edison is a suburban township located in the central region, and Pinelands Regional School District consists of small towns located in a rural section of the southern region of the state. Through the creation of an all-inclusive transition website, the project will serve children and youth with disabilities statewide as well.”

Glenna Wright-Gallo, assistant secretary for the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services, which oversees RSA, said, “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.” She added, “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 USDOE’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 to improve transition services for students with disabilities.

The USDOE 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:

StateAgencyFunding Level
AlaskaAlaska Department of Education and Early Development$10,000,000
ArkansasArkansas Department of Education/ Division of Elementary and Secondary Education$9,913,236
ColoradoColorado Labor & Employment, Division of Vocational Rehabilitation$14,116,234.89
ConnecticutConnecticut Department of Aging and Disability Services/Bureau of Rehabilitation Services$10,000,000
GeorgiaGeorgia Vocational Rehabilitation Agency$10,588,912
IdahoIdaho State Department of Education/Special Education$9,798,372.94
IllinoisIllinois Department of Human Services/  Division of Rehabilitation Services$10,000,000
KansasKansas Department of Education/Division of Learning Services$8,442,103
KentuckyKentucky Department of Education’s Office of Special Education and Early Learning$9,942,934
LouisianaLouisiana Department of Education$10,000,000
MaineMaine Division of Vocational Rehabilitation$7,632,256
MarylandMaryland State Department of Education/ Rehabilitation Services$9,989,423
New JerseyNew Jersey Department of Education, Office of Special Education$8,667,855
New MexicoNew Mexico Public Education Department, Office of Inclusive Education$9,943,500
NevadaNevada Department of Education/Office of Inclusive Education$9,964,894.81
OklahomaOklahoma State Department of Education$9,992,898
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry/Office of Vocational Rehabilitation$9,990,688.97
South CarolinaSouth Carolina Department of Education$9,992,013
VermontVermont Department of Disabilities, Aging, and Independent Living/Division for the Blind and Visually Impaired$10,000,000
WyomingWyoming Division of Vocational Rehabilitation$10,000,000


Visit to learn more about each model demonstration projects.