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d. 1. The designated State unit's plans, policies, and procedures for coordination with education officials to facilitate the transition of students with disabilities from school to the receipt of VR services, including pre-employment transition services, as well as procedures for the timely development and approval of individualized plans for employment for the students

Current Narrative:

Coordination with Education Officials

The Florida Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) entered into a formal Agreement in August 2018, to coordinate transition services with state education officials based on new procedures required for the implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. This was an interim measure while the state awaited the publishing of final regulations before updating the State Interagency Agreement to coordinate transition services for students with disabilities. It is a state-level agreement, including agencies charged with providing transition services to students leaving high school and going to postsecondary education, training and/or employment, as well as providing Pre-Employment Transition Services to students with disabilities aged 14-21. The educational agencies listed below agree to meet regularly to share information, ideas and current initiatives, collaborate on training and special projects, cooperate in planning and budgeting and generally support any areas of work that are mutually beneficial. These agencies all within the Florida Department of Education include

  • Division of Public Schools (DPS)
  • Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (BEESS)
  • Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (VR)
  • Division of Blind Services (DBS)

This formal interagency agreement serves as a transition services model for improved collaboration, communication, coordination and cooperation among local education agencies and local offices of VR and DBS.

This agreement informs the Division of Blind Services, State and Local Education Agencies that they must assure they do not enter into an arrangement with an entity holding a special wage certificate under section 14(c) of the Fair Labor Standards Act for the purpose of operating a program under which a student or youth with a disability is compensated for work at subminimum wage, in accordance with Section 511 of 34 CFR § 397.31. In addition, employers holding a 14(c) special wage certificate are prohibited from employing a youth with a disability 24 years of age or younger at subminimum wage, unless the individual has received documentation from DBS or VR verifying their completion of the required activities, which includes participation in Pre-ETS or Transition Services under IDEA, application for VR services and completion of the Career Counseling Information and Referral Service. VR ensures compliance through policy and standard operating procedures that require VR staff to record the completion of these activities and supply this documentation to the youth or student with a disability who is seeking subminimum wage employment.

VR has increased staffing to two dedicated state-level administrators for VR Transition Youth programs and Pre-Employment Transition services.  The administrators serve as liaisons to all 67 school districts and a Deaf and Hard of Hearing administrator provides additional liaison support for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind.

Administrators coordinate and plan for effective transition services delivery with VR staff and external stakeholders statewide. The VR Transition Youth program is responsible for training internal employees and making presentations about VR transition services at conferences statewide to increase understanding and awareness of the agency's role in assisting eligible students with disabilities.

The VR Transition Youth program provides transition and pre-employment transition services-related technical assistance to the Florida Rehabilitation Council. Both administrators serve jointly as a representative on the State Secondary Transition Interagency Committee and work closely with the regional representatives of Project 10: the Transition Education Network. Project 10 is funded through a grant from BEESS to the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. Project 10 helps Florida school districts and stakeholders increase their ability to provide secondary transition services to students with disabilities in order to improve their academic success and postsecondary outcomes. Project 10 helps implement secondary transition services, interagency collaboration, transition legislation and policy, and student development and outcomes. VR counselors serving transition students participate in each area’s local interagency councils. The interagency councils are a collaborative effort between VR and Department of Education partners, public high schools, adult service agencies, workforce programs, parents, students, advocates, and employers working together to meet the transition needs of students with disabilities.

The VR Director or designee serves on the State Advisory Committee (SAC) for the Education of Exceptional Students. This committee is administered by BEESS. The SAC includes parents of children with disabilities, individuals with disabilities, educators and administrators from secondary and postsecondary institutions as well as foster care and juvenile justice representatives. The SAC also includes representatives of various state agencies that provide transition and other services to children, youth and young adults with disabilities. The committee advises the state education agency on what children with disabilities need and helps them develop corrective action plans to address findings in related federal monitoring reports. The committee also helps the state education agency develop evaluations and policies, implement policies and report data. The committee may comment publicly on rules and regulations proposed by the state relating to the coordination of services for children with disabilities.

VR services delivered under WIOA do not remove, reduce, or change the school district's responsibility to deliver a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) for students served under the auspices of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. VR services supplement, but do not supplant services delivered through the school districts.

The VR Transition Youth program collaborates with education officials and partners to offer youth with the most significant disabilities opportunities to gain work experiences that help them prepare for successful employment. Collaborations such as Project SEARCH and Inclusive Postsecondary Education (IPSE) programs engage youth in experiences that blend academics with career and technical education. They also provide hands-on career exploration and preparation activities where learned skills, attitudes, and behaviors can be applied. These evidence-based applications of learning, which includes internships and community- based work experiences, often lead to successful employment. For some students, these programs include earning postsecondary credentials, which allow them to explore professional jobs that may lead to higher-wage careers. VR involvement in these collaborations provides funding for participants to receive needed services and other supports. This shared support helps partner programs serve more youth. VR partnerships deliver career development and employment options through direct services to youth who would not otherwise have access to these opportunities.