USDE: FAFSA Update will Start in December 2023 (March 27, 2023)

On March 21, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education USDE) announced that a simplified version of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) will debut in December 2023. The announcement came after a number of organizations pressured the USDE for more information regarding FAFSA dates, since states, colleges and access groups would need time to make significant adjustments to their systems and processes based on the FAFSA release date. Also, in December 2023 the USDE’s Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA), will publish a “testing and demonstration” website for counselors and financial aid administrators to help staff, students and families navigate the updated form.

Normally, the financial aid form goes live in October of every year, but the USDE is in the process of streamlining the application after Congress approved changes to it in 2020. The re-designed FAFSA will apply to students seeking aid for the 2024-25 academic year.

Originally, a revised FAFSA was scheduled to go live for the 2023-24 academic year. However, in 2021 the USDE delayed implementation until the 2024-25 due to issues related to outdated technology.

Lastly, sometime in spring 2023, the USDE will publish tools to help school officials understand differences between the Expected Family Contribution ( EFC), which has been the metric for determining how much students and families pay for college after aid, and the upcoming Student Aid Index, which will function similarly to the EFC. Also, beginning this summer webinars will be offered to administrators to become familiar with the changes in the application and financial aid eligibility.

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USDE Issues DCL Calling for End to Corporal Punishment, Providing Guiding Principles on School Discipline (March 24, 2023)

On March 24, 2023, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona wrote to Governors, Chief State School Officers, and School District and School Leaders and urged them to end corporal punishment in schools—the practice of paddling, spanking, or otherwise imposing physical punishment on students. This Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) reinforces the U.S. Department of Education’s (USDE) position that corporal punishment in schools should be replaced with evidence-based practices, such as implementing multi-tiered systems of support like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), that create a safe and healthy school environments.

Despite decades of research showing the short and long-term harms of corporal punishment, the practice continues to be legal in at least 23 states.

In addition, the USDE released guiding principles on how  to maintain safe, inclusive, supportive,  and fair learning environments for students and school staff, including specific recommendations for evidence-based practices  to give students  what they need  to learn and grow.

In addition, USDE avers that it stands ready to support efforts to replace harmful disciplinary practices, including exclusionary discipline and corporal punishment through funding under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, and through its technical assistance centers, including the Best Practices Clearinghouse, National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments, and National Center to Improve Social and Emotional Learning and School Safety, among other resources.

Unanimous Decision: Supreme Court Rules Against District in Landmark Special Ed. Case (March 22, 2023)

On March 21, 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a rare unanimous decision, ruled that a deaf student can sue his school for its failure to provide him with a free appropriate public education (FAPE).

In the case, Perez v. Sturgis Public Schools, instead of providing the student (Perez) with aides able to translate class material into sign language, as promised, the aides were not trained in sign language at all, and often were absent from classes.

Further, because the student received better than passing grades (As and Bs) on report cards, his parents reasonably thought he was on track to graduate. However, near the end of his senior year in high school, the parents learned that he would instead be receiving a certificate of completion and not a diploma. The parents filed a complaint with the state, and the school district settled the case, agreeing to pay for future training at the Michigan School for the Deaf.

Consequently, the student pursued compensation for past damages, including loss of income and emotional distress, under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which bars discrimination against those with disabilities. That lawsuit ultimately compelled the Supreme Court to determine whether the student could sue for past damages under a different statute, since the first suit was under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the subsequent suit was under the ADA. The unanimous decision provided a resounding affirmative answer to that question.

The result is that an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit seeking compensatory damages for the denial of a free and appropriate education (FAPE) may proceed without exhausting the administrative processes of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) because the remedy sought is not one IDEA provides.

Click here to read the SCOTUS Blog.

Read the full K-12 Dive article by clicking here.

Read an article from NPR by clicking here.

PDE: $1.5 Million in Grants Now Available for IHEs to Attract More Special Ed. Teachers March 22, 2023)

According to PennWatch, on March 21, 2023, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) announced $1.5 million in grant funding is being made available to institutions of higher education (IHE) that partner with school districts to expedite the process to become a special education teacher.

The Accelerated Program for PK-12 Special Education Teacher Certification will provide grants to IHEs that have approved PK-12 special education certification programs and who partner with at least one LEA to provide those who currently hold bachelor’s degrees with summer field experiences, mentoring by experienced special educators during the school year, and deliver a postbaccalaureate program for PK-12 special education teacher certification within 18 months.

Programs must offer most of the coursework during summer 2023 and summer 2024; provide a combination of in-person and virtual options for flexibility and support to the accelerated program participants working full-time; and ensure a minimum of 12 weeks of student teaching.

The maximum grant award for an IHE is $100,000. Grant funds will be available through December 31, 2024.

Interested IHEs must apply by April 7, 2023 through the Attract-Prepare-Retain (APR) Repository.

A webinar will be held today (3/22/23) from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM. Sessions will be recorded and made available on the APR Repository for those unable to atttend.

Source: PennWatch.

To read the full PennWatch article, click here.

Bills to Require AEDs and CPR Training in Schools Introduced in PA Senate (March 19, 2023)

On March 16, 2023 two bills, Senate Bill 512 and Senate Bill 513, were introduced in the PA Senate that would require that each school, as well as other places where school activities occur, have at least one centrally located Automated External Defibrillator (AED).

The proposed legislation would also require all coaches in after-school programs to be certified to perform CPR and that schools must have emergency response teams and response plans for a sudden cardiac arrest. Click here for full article from the Philadelphia Inquirer.