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Leap on Public Safety After L.A.’s Leadership Transition

Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Jorja Leap spoke to the Los Angeles Times about how to address rising rates of gun violence, one of several issues that the next L.A. mayor will face. While some city leaders have expressed a desire to reform the duties of the Los Angeles Police Department, including moving away from armed responses to certain calls, the city is facing a surge in homicides and gun violence. As of July 3, homicides had increased by nearly 41% compared to the same period in 2019 and the number of shooting victims increased by nearly 40% in the same period. Leap expressed concern that the gun violence could spark a public backlash against community policing programs and partnerships with gang intervention workers. “What terrifies me is that people will say, ‘Crime is increasing, we’ve got to stop this,’” Leap said. “And they’ll go back to the bad old days of command-and-control policing.”


Reservations Need More Federal Funding, Akee Says

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee was featured in a Los Angeles Times article about the federal government’s failure to address the need for clean water and sanitation on Native American reservations. “Federal funding for reservations is not meeting needs,” Akee said. “It’s just woefully underfunded at the federal level, and tribes for a long, long time have not had the resources to fully develop these resources themselves.” Many Native American households lack indoor plumbing, and they often must rely on donations of drinking water when pipes fail. The government has deemed many of the necessary sanitation improvement projects “infeasible” because of the high cost, leaving rural indigenous communities with limited access to clean drinking water. “Frankly, it’s a responsibility of the federal government, a trust responsibility of treaties and hundreds of years of commitments,” Akee said. “There has been a failure to fully live up to those commitments.”


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.


Akee on COVID-19 Outreach to Native American Communities

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke with Marketplace about the importance of prioritizing Native American communities in public health initiatives. The new COVID-19 relief law will give $15 billion in grants to enhance vaccine distribution, with special consideration for underserved populations including Native Americans. The death rate from COVID-19 among Native Americans is nearly twice as high as it is for white Americans, and Native Americans are three times as likely to get the virus as white people. According to Akee, a lot of the public health funding will go beyond vaccines into areas like infrastructure. “One really important aspect is almost a billion dollars in funding that’s allocated for broadband access, which again, in the age of COVID, is incredibly important for education and the access to public health information,” Akee explained. “The vaccine is important, but mitigating the spread of COVID-19 will take more than just two shots to the arm.”


Yaroslavsky on Funding Olympic Games

Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, spoke to Utah’s Deseret News about hosting the Olympic Games in U.S. cities. Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games in 2002, and Utah is bidding to again play host in 2030 or 2034. Similarly, Los Angeles will host its third Summer Games in 2028. Yaroslavsky said it makes sense to hold future Olympics in places like Utah and Los Angeles because they already have facilities in place. “The cost of putting on the Games is largely in the infrastructure you have to build,” he explained. Yaroslavsky, a former city councilman, worked to prohibit the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles from using general fund money from the city, pushing organizers to find private funding instead. “I am a cheerleader for the Games,” Yaroslavsky said. “But I’m a cheerleader for a Games that doesn’t cost taxpayers money.”


Ong Foresees Rippling Effect of Census Undercount

Paul Ong, director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge at UCLA Luskin, spoke to USA Today about low response rates to the census in low-income and minority neighborhoods. The COVID-19 pandemic, lack of internet access and a timeline that was shortened by the U.S. Census Bureau have made it more difficult to get accurate population counts in hard-to-reach neighborhoods. “My biggest fear, and my estimate, is that we’re headed towards an extremely flawed census,” Ong said. While the Census Bureau has assured that it will be able to close the gap on undercounted populations, Ong said he would like to see evidence that confirms the reliability of these efforts. Census results are used to distribute congressional seats and federal funding, so undercounting can take a significant toll on a community. “The large and growing racial and income differences have a rippling effect downstream for other operations, creating more challenges and hurdles,” Ong concluded.


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.


Akee Alarmed by Undercounting of Navajo Population

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee spoke with KJZZ News about the danger of undercounting the Navajo Nation population in the 2020 census. The coronavirus pandemic has hindered the self-reporting phase of the census; in April, fewer than 1% of Navajo had reported to the U.S. Census Bureau. Now, that number has risen to about 6.5% — still a fraction of the number that responded last time. Akee explained that it’s important for the census to get the numbers right. “Undercounting is horrible. It’s problematic because it affects everything from allocations of funding to congressional representation,” he said. Akee noted that funding for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was also based on population size. Undercounting of minority populations can drastically affect the allocation of federal aid and resources. Census workers are responsible for filling in missing data in order to account for lack of self-reporting.


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 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.”