Reber on Facts and Inaccuracies in UC Admissions Debate

Articles in the Washington Post and Inside Higher Ed cited Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber’s efforts to clarify misleading statements about the University of California’s admissions policies. Both articles were written in rebuttal to an Atlantic story arguing that the UC system’s decision to phase out the use of SAT and ACT scores in fact discriminates against poor students of color. The Atlantic article “bootstrapped complex admissions data and procedures into a hot take that cooled upon inspection,” according to the Washington Post opinion piece, which pointed to Reber’s work as a factually accurate explanation of the admissions process. Reber, an authority on the economics of education policy, also weighed in on social media to counter incomplete or erroneous information. Inside Higher Ed called on public universities to do more to shore up public faith in their mission, both by aggressively countering false narratives and by upending a culture that prizes selectivity and prestige in admissions.


 

Reber Addresses Inequalities in School Funding

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a commentary in The Hill about the need for more equitable distribution of federal funding for schools. Congress has increased school funding in response to the COVID-19 crisis, with aid distributed using a formula laid out in Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which sends more money to high-poverty schools. However, Reber and Nora Gordon of Georgetown University argued that “funding under the program is not a clean proxy for economic disadvantage.” They recommended turning to “simpler and better alternatives for distributing much-needed additional funding for school infrastructure and to address educational inequities.” The Title I formula has created confusion and political pushback; for example, it directs more funding per student to larger districts compared to smaller ones with the same child poverty rate. “It is past time for Congress to address these concerns with additional funding distributed with an eye to equity,” they concluded.


Reber, Akee on COVID-19’s Devastation of Native Populations

Associate Professors of Public Policy Randall Akee and Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article about the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) populations. Research has found that AIAN people are dying of COVID-19 at much higher rates and at younger ages than other groups, with a death rate comparable to white people 20 to 30 years older. Akee and Reber noted that accurate data on this population is lacking because of difficulty estimating the size of small communities and miscategorization of AIAN people as other races and ethnicities. Nevertheless, available data shows that the age-adjusted mortality rate is higher for AIAN people than for any other group, and it is more than double the death rate for whites and Asians. Reber and Akee argued that the history of racism against Native populations underscores the importance of prioritizing the vaccination of American Indians and Alaska Natives of all ages as soon as possible.


Reber Points to Racial Inequity in Vaccine Distribution

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber was featured in a ProPublica article about how to make the COVID-19 vaccine rollout more racially equitable. In some locations, people 75 and older have been prioritized in the vaccine distribution, a strategy that ignores the fact that Black Americans have a shorter life expectancy than their white counterparts and are therefore less likely to receive the vaccine. Research has also shown that Black people who die from COVID-19 are, on average, about 10 years younger than white victims. “If you [allocate the vaccine] strictly by age, you’re going to vaccinate white people who have lower risks before you vaccinate Black people with higher risks,” Reber explained. “If you’re trying to avert deaths, you would want to vaccinate Blacks who are about 10 years younger than whites.” The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on Black Americans is expected to further exacerbate the life expectancy gap between Black and white Americans.


COVID-19 Doesn’t Only Threaten the Elderly, Reber Says

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber spoke to the Dallas Morning News about the disproportionate toll of COVID-19 deaths on Latino and Black communities in Texas. While many believe that COVID-19 threatens just the elderly, working-age adults in Texas’ Latino and Black communities are dying at rates many times higher than those of whites, according the the story, which was reprinted nationally. “That discussion of ‘Oh, it’s all the really old people’ — that’s a white people’s story,” Reber said. The disparities in COVID-19 deaths have gone largely underreported because health experts were not initially focused on them. However, there are significant differences in the death toll when separated by age and ethnicity. In Texas, the COVID-19 death rate for Hispanics among those ages 25 to 64 is four times as high as that of non-Hispanic whites. Furthermore, Blacks in that age group are dying at more than twice the rate of white people.


Reber on Desperate Need for School Relief Bill

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber was featured in a Politics! Politics! Politics! podcast about the need for a COVID-19 relief bill to support schools. The most important requirement for the safe reopening of schools is getting the pandemic under control to reduce community spread, Reber said. However, schools also urgently need a federal aid package to cover the shortfall in revenue facing state governments as well as the additional costs of socially distanced or remote learning. School districts will need to pay for additional equipment for remote instruction as well as increased staffing and additional training to ensure high quality of instruction, she said. The pandemic is “shining new light on pre-existing inequalities,” she said, and districts must be creative in how they provide remote instruction. Without a large, flexible federal aid package, “there won’t be a solution for schools to operate,” Reber said. The podcast segment featuring Reber begins at minute 1:02:05.


Reber on Congress’ Next Steps to Support Schools

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article offering policy guidance as the federal government hammers out a relief package to help schools safely resume classes. “Whether schools are open for in-person instruction, for distance learning or use a hybrid approach, they will need federal funding to prevent recession-lengthening layoffs and to support student learning,” Reber and co-author Nora Gordon of Georgetown University wrote. To equitably allocate aid to states, Congress should avoid the Title I formula used to support children in low-income households, they argued. Instead, they laid out alternative formulas that would promote local flexibility, avoid unnecessary strings and minimize confusion. “Whether adopting social distancing protocols for live instruction or developing remote-learning offerings, all schools will face new costs this school year that, without federal support, will undermine their ability to provide a quality education,” they wrote.


 

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.


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.


Reber Recommends Allocating More School Aid to Higher-Poverty States

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article arguing for a more equitable way to allocate federal COVID-19 aid to schools. The authors described shortcomings in the federal government’s Title I formula used to support children in low-income households. Instead, they recommended “designing a new formula that sends more money per pupil to states with higher child-poverty rates.” Their proposal, described in an Education Week  report, would distribute aid using a weighted formula with two factors: the total number of school-age children and the number of poor school-age children in each state. “Despite the greater resource needs of poor students, per-pupil school spending is already lower in states with higher child poverty rates,” wrote Reber and co-author Nora Gordon of Georgetown University. “All states are affected by the current crisis, and the federal government needs to invest in all students. But higher-poverty states have less capacity to withstand these circumstances and need more federal support.”