Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of education, covering the 2010-11 school year, show Louisiana's rate at 29 percent, just higher than Mississippi and Nevada, whose graduation rates are tied at 23 percent. Texas is tops in the nation at 77 percent.
Louisiana's overall high school graduation rate is 71 percent
The Advocate reported Louisiana's low rate is a key driver behind state Superintendent of Education John White's push to revamp the way the state finances special education.
Under current rules, the state allocates special education dollars to local school districts based on the number of students classified that way regardless of disability. Under White's plan, state aid would be allocated based on three factors: type of disability, what setting is used to educate the student and how the student fares in the classroom.
Backers say White's proposal would move the state away from a cookie-cutter approach and target aid.
White outlined his proposal to the Special Education Advisory Panel, a 17-member panel of parents, educators and others that advises the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Special education funding changes could also be a key topic next month when BESE approves its annual funding request to the Legislature, which includes state aid for special education students.
Louisiana's special education population totals about 82,000 students in public schools. The state spends about $313 million per year on those students.