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Coordinated National Plan for Resuming Classes Urged

A research brief calling for a coordinated national plan to guide schools as they reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic, co-authored by Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor, was highlighted on the blog of the Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy. “There is absolute consensus that children need to be in school,” the blog’s author noted. “Tragically, this year countless families and children will experience unimaginable trauma because of all the uncertainty that accompanies a relentless pandemic.” The research brief from social welfare scholars at UCLA, Loyola University Chicago, Cal State Fullerton and Hebrew University identified concerns held by 1,275 school social workers from across the country. “We need a Manhattan Project-style initiative that pulls together all relevant professions — educators, administrators, school psychologists, counselors, social workers, nurses and other health professionals — to create strategic plans for the upcoming school year,” the scholars concluded.

Park on Schools, Extreme Heat, Racial Equity

A Guardian story on the harmful impact of extreme heat on communities of color cited research by Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park. Data from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that U.S. counties with large Black and Latino populations experience a disproportionately high number of days with temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the article said. Research by Park, an environmental economist at the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation, focuses on the effect of extreme heat on students’ ability to learn. His analysis of data from 10 million U.S. students over 15 years found that minority and low-income students who attend schools that lack air conditioning are particularly vulnerable. “Adapting to climate change is a matter of racial and economic justice, especially in schools,” said Park, who also discussed his research in an interview with America Adapts, beginning at minute 3:18.

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.


 

Weisburst Research on School Police, Student Success Cited

An Economist article discussing the effectiveness of school police officers cited research by Assistant Professor of Public Policy Emily Weisburst. In the 1990s, a federal crime bill included funding for “school resource officers,” leading to the widespread presence of police on the nation’s elementary, middle school and high school campuses. The article cited an ACLU report showing that 14 million students attend schools with a police officer on campus but no counselor, nurse, psychologist or social worker. Still, many teachers call for reform rather than removal of the officers, according to an Education Week survey cited in the article. Weisburst’s research assessed student success in Texas school districts that used federal grants to hire resource officers. She found that they experienced a 2.5% decrease in high school graduation rates and a 4% decrease in college enrollment.


 

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.”


Park Studies Effects of Global Warming on Student Learning

Assistant Professor of Public Policy Jisung Park discussed the effect of warming global temperatures on student learning in an NPR interview. Park and his colleagues analyzed data from 10 million U.S. students over 15 years to explore the relationship between climate change and student academic performance. Park found that “students who experience a hotter than average year —  let’s say a year with five more school days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit — appeared to experience reduced learning.” A one-degree-Fahrenheit increase in average temperature in a given year reduces learning on average by around 1%,  he said. But his research showed that the same temperature change disproportionately impacts underrepresented minorities by closer to 2% or 3%. Park added that infrastructure affects student academic performance, explaining that “the effect of heat on learning is much smaller in schools that report having adequate air conditioning.”


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.”


A Lesson on Housing Justice for L.A.’s Classrooms