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.”

Schools Need Flexible Federal Funding, Reber Writes

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article about the importance of flexibility in coronavirus stabilization funding for schools. Schools need federal funding to offset decreases in state funding due to the coronavirus pandemic. Reber argued that Congress should send federal aid to states and school districts through a fiscal stabilization fund, instead of expanding existing federal programs like Title I that come with complicated compliance requirements. She recommended creating a “straightforward and streamlined federal application process for states and school districts.” She also highlighted the importance of using concise, plain language to avoid any confusion about how school districts are allowed to use funding. To best serve students, Congress should craft a relief program that “grants districts the flexibility that they need to use funds most effectively.” The article is the second installment of Brookings’ “Federal aid for schools and COVID-19” series by Reber and Nora Gordon of Georgetown University.

Reber Advocates for Increased Federal Aid for Schools

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber co-authored a Brookings article about the need for federal funding to support students and promote economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. School districts are facing new costs associated with distance learning just as state and local governments are facing major budget shortfalls. The federal government, which now contributes less than 10% of total elementary and secondary education budgets, has an advantage over states in its ability to borrow freely, the authors explained. The CARES Act took the first step in allocating emergency funds to schools but was still much less than aid packages for schools during the Great Recession, wrote Reber, a Brookings fellow. Laying out how the federal government might structure new funding, the authors wrote, “Congress should design the next relief package, and more to follow, with two goals in mind: protecting children from the harmful effects of deep cuts and promoting economic recovery.”

Reber Debates Future of SAT and ACT in Admissions

Associate Professor of Public Policy Sarah Reber was featured in a Los Angeles Times report about the controversy over a faculty recommendation to keep the SAT and ACT tests as admission requirements for the University of California system. In a letter to the Board of Regents, Reber and two other education and economics experts, Michal Kurlaender of UC Davis and Jesse Rothstein of UC Berkeley, criticized the recommendation, which was made by faculty representing all 10 UC campuses. Reber and her co-authors instead recommended the use of a state assessment called Smarter Balanced, which research shows is as predictive of college performance as the SAT with less bias against disadvantaged students. Reber called for all campuses to admit more students who graduate with high GPAs but low test scores, then to hold them accountable for their academic success once enrolled. UC Regents are scheduled to meet in May to vote on the issue.

Phillips and Reber on Virtual College Advising

Meredith Phillips, associate professor of public policy and sociology, and Sarah Reber, associate professor of public policy, wrote a working paper on virtual college advising that was featured on Campus Technology. Their research found that students randomly assigned to virtual advising were more likely to feel supported during the college application process and apply to more four-year colleges, but they were not more likely to be accepted or enrolled in those schools. Their research used Virtual Student Outreach for College Enrollment (V-SOURCE), a virtual counseling program intended to reduce barriers to applying to college for low-income students. Phillips and Reber found that while V-SOURCE increased the number of students completing college application milestones, the improvements were modest. “Ultimately, many low-income students will likely need more hands-on help with the application process or more intensive and expensive interventions addressing fundamental financial, academic and institutional barriers to successfully enroll in and complete college,” the report concluded.