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.”
Professor Ron Avi Astor, who holds a joint appointment with UCLA Luskin Social Welfare and the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, has received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program award to Israel, where he will study the country’s successful, systemic approach to addressing school safety issues. As a Fulbright Senior Scholar, Astor will conduct research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem for his project, “Addressing School Safety at the National Scale, for Each School, and Sustained Over Time: A Two-Decade Historical and Empirical Case Study on the Israeli System of School Safety.” His four-month study tour will begin in March. Astor’s research examines the role of the physical, social-organizational and cultural contexts in schools related to different kinds of bullying and violence. Israel, he said, has adopted policies and practices that have reduced victimization levels and become an example for many other countries and states. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. The program’s U.S. Scholar awards are made on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as a record of leadership and service. Established in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, the program is funded by the U.S. State Department and supported by governments and host institutions in more than 160 countries.
Gregory Pierce, adjunct professor of urban planning and associate director of research at the Luskin Center for Innovation, spoke to Arizona PBS about the presence of lead in California’s drinking water. California is testing pipes and upgrading plumbing at public schools across the state, the article noted. Nearby homes typically share the same water systems, but “there’s no required testing for these privately owned places, which may result in many people not knowing that the water they are using for showers, cooking and drinking purposes may have lead contamination,” Pierce said. The article cited a UCLA report card on water quality in Los Angeles County, where some residents perceive that their tap water is unsafe. “With the lack of trust in their water, these lower-income residents and areas are now having to rely on water stores, or having to buy drinks such as juice or soda because they believe there are issues with their water.”
Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor, an authority on school safety, spoke with media outlets including CBS News, NBC4 News and KNX1070 in the wake of the deadly shooting at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita. Astor recently presented a report to Congress on reducing weapons in schools, based on data collected from California high schools. Among the findings was a startling statistic: Students at nearly 90% of high schools surveyed said they had seen weapons on campus. Astor said early intervention when warning signs appear is key, and schools must create a caring environment that encourages staff and students to come forward. “If we can actually get schools to see that this is their job, this is what they do, this is not just a prevention for shooting, this makes a better society, then we think we’ll see a massive reduction” in the most severe acts of violence on campus, Astor told NBC4.
Listen to Astor’s podcast on reducing weapons in schools.
Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor spoke with Education Dive about proposed changes to the data collected by the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights. The office plans to eliminate some survey questions involving early-career teachers and early childhood education but will add questions about religion-related bullying. While school districts would not be required to identify a student’s religion, they would be expected to assess whether a bully was motivated by religious differences. The Office of Management and Budget found that roughly 10,000 of the 135,200 bullying incidents reported in 2015-2016 were related to religion. Astor said it would be “good to know if kids of certain religions are getting bullied more or not” but cautioned that one’s perceived religion may or may not be the real reason for the mistreatment. He added that incidents actually reported by schools are likely to represent only the “tip of the iceberg” of what’s taking place.
A Southern California News Group article about a survey asking California students whether they have thought about killing themselves cited Social Welfare Professor Ron Avi Astor, an expert on school safety. Of the students surveyed, nearly one in five had considered suicide within the last 12 months, the news group’s analysis found. The rate at individual school sites ranged from 4% to nearly 70%, according to Astor, who has conducted an extensive study of the data. “What happens in the classroom and on the playground matters,” he said. “How students are treated between themselves and by teachers, it matters.” Each school district in the state decides whether to administer the survey to ninth- and 11th-graders and students in non-traditional high schools. Districts that obtain the information and act on it report a reduction in suicide ideation rates, the newspaper reported. Astor also commented in a second Southern California News Group article about three California bills aimed at preventing teen suicide, and discussed the issue in a televised interview with CBS Los Angeles.
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, was named to an L.A. Unified School District team created to provide more resources to local schools and improve student learning. Yaroslavky is one of three civic leaders volunteering their time to the initiative, which seeks to move resources and decision-making from the bureaucracy to schools. “This is about empowering and supporting our school leaders and teachers … and crafting a path to increased parent and community participation in schools,” LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner announced. “We are grateful for the support of the philanthropic community and the civic leaders who are involved in improving public education in Los Angeles.” As a former county supervisor and City Council member, Yaroslavsky has dedicated four decades to public service working on such issues as school-based wellness, the environment, transportation and the arts. “I’m excited about working with the Greater Los Angeles community to ensure that every student receives an education that prepares them for the economy and society of the future,” Yaroslavsky said. “A thriving public education system is vital to the health and success of our communities and our cities.
Jisung Park, assistant professor of public policy and environmental health sciences, was interviewed by the Dutch daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad about his research on the effects of heat on learning and test scores for students in the United States. Asked about the effect of climate change on productivity, Park said, “In a modern economy, schools are the places where the wealth of a nation is created. That is where the knowledge and the skill comes from.” Park suggested that countries with moderate climates, like the Netherlands, adopt heat policies as temperatures climb worldwide. “I think that is why we should be just as concerned about the environment in which a student learns as the environment in which a worker works.”
More than 45 students from Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School in Watts spent the afternoon of Feb. 7, 2018, touring the UCLA campus thanks to the efforts of the UCLA Luskin-based Watts Leadership Institute (WLI) and GRoW@Annenberg. The daylong adventure for the students — known as “Keepers of the Dream” — was organized by Mike Cummings, also known as “Big Mike” or “Pastor Mike,” who is the executive director of We Care Outreach Ministries and a member of the first leadership cohort for WLI. The students started the day by visiting the middle school and high school they will attend, then traveled to UCLA, where they had lunch in the Covel Commons. The UCLA “Cub” tour, which began at the Bruin statue in the heart of the campus, was coordinated Melanie Edmond, principal of Joyner Elementary School. The group also met with Jorja Leap ’78 MSW ’80 PhD ‘88, adjunct professor of social welfare and co-founder of WLI, a 10-year initiative to build a legacy of indigenous leaders and community empowerment in Watts. Karrah Lompa MSW ’13, co-founder of the Watts Leadership Institute, also participated. She said the inspiration and sponsorship of the program by GRoW@Annenberg, a philanthropic initiative led by Gregory Annenberg Weingarten, vice president and director of the Annenberg Foundation, has been instrumental to their efforts.
View a Flickr album of images from the students’ visit to UCLA:
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