TGIF Timesaver: What to expect from FAFSA; how to sustain ESSER

Pandemic relief is about to expire and by now most K12 districts have made cuts to programs or taken steps to ensure they'd have the necessary funding to sustain certain initiatives.

Can you believe that it’s June already? Hopefully, by this point, most of you are celebrating another successful school year with a restful vacation. With that said, we’ll get straight to the point by letting you know what’s happened recently in the world of K12 education, including new ESSER funding resources and why even more schools are banning cell phones.

What’s the deal with FAFSA?

Late last week, Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona promised “transformational changes” to the program after technical issues forced delays and errors starting with its “soft launch” in December.

These changes include taking steps to improve operations at the Federal Student Aid office, Cardona wrote in a letter to staff. Here are some—but not all—of the specifics:

  • Hiring a new chief operating officer for the Federal Student Aid office.
  • Completing a full-scale review of the office’s current and historical organization, management, staffing, workflow structures, business processes and operations.
  • Tasking an independent consulting firm with providing recommendations on ways to improve the design, structure and processes within FSA, with a focus on building an updated organizational structure and workflow.

The past three years have been spent making strides in providing financial aid to students, Cardona noted. “However, changes are needed to make sure students, borrowers and families have a better user experience with FSA, and we can achieve better outcomes for the millions of people we serve,” he concluded.

More from DA: 3 innovative ways schools are using AI to improve learning

Can you sustain new initiatives post-ESSER?

Pandemic relief is about to expire and by now most K12 districts have made cuts to programs or taken steps to ensure they’d have the necessary funding to sustain certain initiatives once ESSER dries up in September. However, if you need more insight on implementing sustainable solutions, we’ve got you covered.

This week, Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab hosted a webinar titled, “Can academic recovery continue when federal relief funds dry up?” And in case you didn’t catch it live, they post all of their past recordings on their website, which includes other great resources, including:

Cell phone bans mount

A nationwide trend that sparked headlines earlier this year is resurfacing as schools make preparations for the 2024-25 school year. Banning cell phones during school hours has become the latest solution to mental health and engagement issues among students.

Last week, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled her plan to ban students from carrying smartphones on school grounds, the Democrat and Chronicle reports. Although details remain uncertain, Hochul told reporters she’d consider allowing “flip phones” so students can still send texts and make calls.

“Why are young people on their devices all day long during school hours? How are they learning?,” said Hochul, The Guardian reports. 

If you haven’t visited a school that restricts cell phones, The Washington Post contributing columnist Kate Cohen writes it’s like going back in time. “It’s too much to expect students to resist the gravitational pull of devices designed to addict them,” Cohen wrote.

New from DA

As always, before you go, check out our latest podcast where we sit down with NASSP’s 2024 National Principal of the Year Andy Farley. He offers some insight into his “student-first” leadership philosophy, as well as some advice for current and aspiring principals as the job changes.

I also recently sat down with Palm Springs Unified School District Tony Signoret to learn more about how he’s paying students nearly $300 a month to serve on his school board, an initiative he says promotes civic engagement among his student body.

You can also read up on some of the folks who made it on DA’s “Top 100 Influencers in Education.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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