Reber Calls for Federal Funding to Support Reopening Schools

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored an opinion piece in the Hill urging Congress to quickly pass a major funding package to enable schools to resume in-person instruction. As fall approaches, many health experts are calling for schools to reopen to support student learning and mental health and allow parents to return to work. With decreased funding from state tax revenue, school districts must rely on federal funding to cover the costs of new technology and infrastructure to ensure teacher and student health and safety. Reber and co-author Nora Gordon of Georgetown University recommended a relief plan that distributes funds to states based on their levels of child poverty and child population. “To avoid the dangers of social isolation for the well-being of children, schools need another federal relief package that is big enough, flexible enough and soon enough to allow them to open this fall,” they wrote.

Shoup on the Benefits of Congestion Pricing in L.A.

Distinguished Research Professor of Urban Planning Donald Shoup authored a Bloomberg article recommending the implementation of congestion pricing in Los Angeles. In 2021, Metro will launch a pre-Olympics pilot program consisting of one or two high-occupancy-vehicle toll lanes adjacent to four or five free lanes in each direction. While some are opposed to the idea of paying to drive on highways, Shoup argued that drivers are already paying for congestion in wasted time. The congestion pricing system will allow toll lane users to travel faster and save time and will also benefit public transit riders who will no longer be trapped in buses “immobilized by the congestion that more affluent drivers create.” By reducing fuel consumption, air pollution and carbon emissions and making public transit faster and more reliable, “congestion pricing can improve life for most people who own a car and for all people who do not,” Shoup concluded.

Blumenberg and Brozen on Inaccessibility of COVID Testing Locations

Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies Director Evelyn Blumenberg and Deputy Director Madeline Brozen co-authored an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times about the accessibility of Los Angeles’ COVID-19 testing sites, most of which are drive-through locations. Public health officials have stressed the importance of testing to combat the pandemic’s spread, but the locations of testing sites are inaccessible for many Angelenos who don’t own cars. Many neighborhoods do not have a walk-in location within walking distance, and borrowing a car or taking public transit to a testing location increases risk of exposure. “If you live in a household without a car in Los Angeles County, you are much more likely to be poor, 65 or older, Black, a recent immigrant, living with a disability or uninsured,” they explained. “These same households also face higher risks of contracting COVID-19, so making sure they have access to testing is paramount.”

Tilly on the Deterioration of Worker Protections

A KQED podcast series on how American workers have lost benefits, power and protections over the last few decades spoke with Urban Planning Professor Chris Tilly, an authority on labor economics. Tilly explained the phenomenon of the “fissured workplace,” where full-time employees work side by side with part-timers, temps, gig workers and contractors. Some classes of workers receive no health coverage, overtime pay, worker’s compensation or other protections, increasing company profits while breaking up worker solidarity. Tilly described a job he held in the late 1970s at a hospital that directly employed not just health-care professionals, but cafeteria staff, custodians and maintenance workers. Now, such positions would be outsourced at many companies, a trend that emerged not from new laws or regulations but from “an experimentation process,” he said. By testing existing legal boundaries, Tilly said, managers and executives discovered that “we could get away with this, there’s nothing stopping us from doing this.” Tilly’s segment begins at minute 23:35.

Zepeda-Millán Sees BLM Protests as Inspiration for Latino Activists

Associate Professor of Public Policy Chris Zepeda-Millán was featured in a New York Times article about the role that Latinos have taken on in the Black Lives Matter movement. Both Black and Latino communities have been affected by police violence and systemic racism, even though the national focus of ongoing protests has chiefly been about the impact on Black Americans and the ways white Americans are responding to it. A recent poll by the New York Times and Siena College found that 21% of Hispanic voters said they had participated in Black Lives Matter protests, nearly identical to the 22% of Black voters who said they had done so. “Many Latino youth, they are making the connection, they are pressing their families to have difficult conversations,” Zepeda-Millán explained. For many liberal Latino activists, the Black Lives Matter movement and current wave of protests serve as a model and an inspiration.

Akee on Bringing New Perspectives to the Field of Economics

An American Economic Association profile of Associate Professor Randall Akee traces his path to becoming a leading researcher of underrepresented groups and an advocate for bringing new perspectives to the field of economics. Akee’s interest in economics was piqued by a class at his all-Native-Hawaiian high school in the sugarcane plantation town where he grew up. He went on to earn economics degrees from Dartmouth, Yale and Harvard, and now focuses his research on Native and Indigenous populations as part of the public policy and American Indian studies faculty at UCLA. Akee recently helped launch the Association for Economic Research of Indigenous Peoples to advance the study of underrepresented groups within the field of economics. “One of the things I’m interested in is opening the door for more underrepresented minorities in the economics profession,” he said, noting that the economics of race or ethnicity is rarely accepted as its own valid field of study. 

Kaplan on Inequalities Underlying Gun Violence

Social Welfare Professor Mark Kaplan was cited in an 808 Opinions blog post about the exacerbation of gun violence during times of crisis. The post argued that economic hardship and social unrest as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic have incited fear and panic. It also pointed to a rise in shootings, online ammunition sales and processed background checks for firearm purchases. The author cited a presentation by Kaplan that tied gun violence to racial and socioeconomic inequality in America. “You hear all about poverty, but inequality is another measure of economic well-being,” Kaplan said. “There is a strong correlation between homicide per million and income inequality.”

Study of Community Policing Program Highlighted

An opinion piece in the Los Angeles Daily News highlighted a UCLA Luskin evaluation of the Community Safety Partnership (CSP) program, launched in 2011 by the Los Angeles Police Department. The program assigns specially trained LAPD officers to work alongside residents to reduce crime by developing youth outreach, sports, recreational and other programs tailored specifically to their communities. The op-ed’s author, City Council member Joe Buscaino, called for expanding the program, describing it as “a radical departure from traditional policing.” He argued that CSP has “proven to reduce crime and establish great relationships and harmony between the LAPD and the community.” The yearlong UCLA Luskin analysis of CSP, led by  Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap, assessed crime data, community-based research, interviews, focus groups and surveys. It concluded that although it is not perfect, the CSP program has reduced crime and made residents feel safer.

Weisburst on Effect of School Police Presence on Student Success

Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst was featured in Christian Science Monitor and LAist articles about the changing role of police officers in schools. Nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd have prompted a rethinking of policing in schools as authorities debate how best to keep students safe and treat them fairly. “We are devoting a lot of resources to police in schools, and there can be protective benefits to that, potentially,” Weisburst explained. “But there are also really big potential costs that I think we need to be concerned about.” Weisburst’s research on the relationship between grants to fund police in schools and educational outcomes for students at those schools found statistically significant drops in the graduation rate and college enrollment rate for students at those schools. “When students are disciplined, their attachment to school decreases,” she said. “That can translate in the longer term to a lower likelihood of graduation.”

Holloway Studies Cannabis Use in LGBTQ Community

Associate Professor of Social Welfare Ian Holloway was mentioned in a High Times article about rates of cannabis use within the LGBTQ community. Most of the data pertaining to cannabis consumption relies on self-reporting, and there is still much to learn about consumption patterns among LGBTQ people. Last year, Holloway was awarded $400,000 for research into tobacco and cannabis use among sexual- and gender-minority young people. While previous studies of tobacco products have shown higher frequency of use within LGBTQ communities, less is known about specific subgroups of LGBTQ people or their use of cannabis. Holloway said his research, conducted in partnership with the Los Angeles LGBT Center, aims to achieve “better understanding of tobacco and cannabis-related health disparities among LGBT young people, which is crucial to improve both short-term and long-term health in LGBT communities.”

Abrams Debunks Myths Surrounding Social Work

Social Welfare Chair Laura Abrams co-authored an opinion piece in Witness LA debunking some of the myths surrounding the field of social work. Nationwide conversations about addressing police misconduct and racial discrimination have included a debate about the role of social workers. “Many people are talking and writing about social work with little understanding of what we actually do,” sometimes characterizing social workers as “callous and untrained child welfare investigators who are as racially insensitive as police officers,” wrote Abrams and co-author Kristen Brock-Petroshius, a Social Welfare doctoral student. Instead, they said, social work is “a profession that seeks to enhance human well-being through interventions with individuals, families, groups, organizations and policies.” They acknowledged social workers’ historical shortcomings, which have perpetuated racist policies and practices. Moving forward, they said, the profession must reshape training practices and heed its code of ethics to “forge a new vision of caring and safe communities.”

Taylor Highlights Benefits of Increased Gas Tax

Brian Taylor, director of the Institute of Transportation Studies, was featured in a Los Angeles Times column about rising gas prices in California. On July 1, the state’s gas tax will rise by 3.2 cents to 50.5 cents per gallon. While many are opposed to raising gas prices, the tax is projected to bring in $7 billion this fiscal year to pay for much-needed repairs. Furthermore, road work and infrastructure projects can be done while fewer people are driving due to stay-at-home orders. Taylor, a professor of urban planning and public policy, explained that the gas tax also discourages use of fossil fuels at a time when the planet needs to be much more serious about addressing climate change. “It encourages people to move around by means other than burning fuel,” he said. “In a sense, a gas tax should put itself out of business by ultimately eliminating our reliance on fossil fuels.”

José Huizar

Yaroslavsky Gives Historical Perspective on City Hall Corruption Case

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, discussed the recent arrest of Los Angeles City Council member José Huizar on federal racketeering charges on a segment of KPCC’s AirTalk. Huizar was arrested by special agents of the FBI in connection with an alleged “pay-to-play” scheme involving more than $1.5 million in bribes accepted from developers and others. According to the U.S. Justice Department, the criminal enterprise also included fraud, extortion and money laundering. Yaroslavsky described the City Hall scandal as the worst since the 1930s, when widespread misconduct ended in the recall of the city’s mayor. “It’s just mind-boggling as a former councilman. As a former elected official, this is the kind of thing that stains everyone,” said Yaroslavsky, who spent decades as a public servant in city and county government. “It really shakes that granite building we call City Hall to its very foundations.”

Reber Finds Shocking Race Gap in Coronavirus Deaths

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber was featured in a Yahoo Finance video discussing her findings on the race gap in coronavirus deaths. “Because whites are on average much older in the United States than Blacks or Latinos, just looking at the crude death rates where you compare the total number of deaths divided by the total population really understates the disparities,” Reber explained. When adjusted to account for age differences, “the death rates for Blacks are more than three times and the death rates for Latinos are more than double those for whites,” she said. Reber found this information to be “some of the most shocking and disturbing analysis that [she has] ever done.” She pointed to the “ongoing and historical systemic racism across our society” that leads to risk factors among Black and Latino communities, making them more vulnerable to the virus.

Manville on Reaching a Traffic Tipping Point

Associate Professor of Urban Planning Michael Manville spoke to the Boston Globe about an uptick in traffic as the Boston metropolitan area reopens. Transit officials view the increased congestion as a real-time experiment to determine how much traffic the region’s highways can take before hitting their tipping points. Manville explained that, once a road nears capacity, each additional vehicle gums things up exponentially. “In ‘The Three Stooges,’ the classic trope is they all try and go through a door at once and they get stuck. If they had just walked through individually, not only could all of them have gone through the door but an almost infinite number of people could have gone in behind them,” he said. “You can have an incredibly high flow going through a door, or on a road, as long as a critical mass isn’t trying to do so at once.”

II&D Study Cited in Reports on L.A. Plans to Aid Renters

News reports about a $100-million rent relief program passed by the Los Angeles City Council cited research by the UCLA Luskin Institute on Inequality and Democracy (II&D) on the threat of mass evictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The relief package is the largest passed by any U.S. city to help tenants pay their rent, according to the Los Angeles Times. It is more than three times as large as a relief program approved by L.A. County supervisors, who cited the II&D report. However, an L.A. Times editorial said the city and county programs are “woefully insufficient to meet the overwhelming need for serious and sustained housing assistance.” The II&D study estimates that tens of thousands of households in Los Angeles County could fall into homelessness due to the pandemic. The research was also spotlighted in an ABC 7 News report that laid out steps that renters can take if threatened with eviction.