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Message From the Dean

My Friends:

It is with tremendous sadness that I share with you the terrible news that our colleague and friend, VC Powe, passed away suddenly overnight. Her husband reached out to us this morning.

VC was a pivotal figure in the history of the School of Public Affairs. She has been with the School since shortly after its founding, and with UCLA for 30 years! She advised a generation of Luskin grads. As executive director of external programs and career services, VC oversaw counseling, internships and fellowships, the Bohnett Fellows Program and the Senior Fellows Program, and she developed long and deep ties to the community and its leadership — political, civic and philanthropic. In my four years as Dean, as I have traveled around Los Angeles and its institutions, there is no single name associated with the School more widely known and more favorably commented upon than VC’s. She was a passionate advocate for our students and alums. She will be deeply missed.

I will share more details when they are available, including arrangements. In the interim, we will reach out to her husband Keith on behalf of the School.

With great sadness…

Gary

Gary M. Segura
Professor and Dean

A longer remembrance of VC Powe will be published soon.

Park on the Visceral Impacts of Climate Change

Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park was featured in a Sustainable LA Grand Challenges Spotlight article discussing his research on the links between heat and student performance. Park analyzed New York City standardized test scores over 20 years and found that students taking an exam on a 90-degree day do a “10-15% of a standard deviation worse than they would have otherwise.” He explained that the impacts of heat are disproportionately high for underrepresented minorities, who are significantly less likely to have air conditioning at school and home. “I would hope that this kind of research can at least help us make more visceral the impacts of climate change and make it less of a ‘other people over there 100 years from now’ problem and more of an ‘all of us today’ problem,” Park said. He stressed the importance of developing a short-term policy portfolio in addition to a long-term carbon mitigation plan.


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 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.”


Stoll Joins Partnership to Foster Diversity in Research

Michael Stoll, professor of public policy and urban planning, is among a group of experts participating in a new American Institutes for Research (AIR) program aimed at building a pipeline of diverse candidates who can contribute to the field of behavioral and social science research and application. The Pipeline Partnership Program provides opportunities for select graduate-level students from Howard University, the University of Texas at San Antonio and Georgia State University. Stoll will contribute his expertise as an advisor and content expert to the program, which provides students with education and training; mentoring and career advancement; and networking and internships. “I’m excited to be a part of this effort because it aims to help diversify researchers in the social and behavioral sciences regarding racial and ethnic representation, but also in regards to cultural competencies in the field,” Stoll said. He plans to give seminars at the partnership universities on his current research as well as subjects that encourage and motivate a new generation of researchers to take leadership positions in their fields. “The goal will be to use these opportunities to develop mentorship relationships with promising graduate students at these partnership universities so as to further their skill enhancement, social networks, and career and professional development and success,” he said. As an AIR external institutional fellow for the past four years, Stoll serves as a thought partner on critical projects or enterprises, provides mentorship to select staff, and serves as a reviewer on high profile reports or projects. — Zoe Day


 

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.”


Villasenor on Prospects for Remote Learning in Fall Term

Public Policy Professor John Villasenor wrote an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education recommending that colleges and universities prepare for the possibility of remote learning in the fall term. The rapid spread of COVID-19 forced many universities to make a sudden switch to remote classes this spring. Planning for fall is overshadowed by continued uncertainty about the duration of the coronavirus emergency and whether it will be advisable for students to return to campus. Villasenor pondered whether “many [students] will elect to sit out the fall term rather than spend many thousands of dollars” on video-based remote learning if it extends into the next academic year. He urged institutions to survey students and their families to collect “critical data regarding enrollment, impacting everything from tuition revenue to class offerings to assignment of teaching assistants.” Villasenor also called on colleges to consider financial assistance to families hit hard by the pandemic. 


Park Links Heat to Test Performance in Classrooms

An article in the Hechinger Report highlighted Assistant Professor of Public Policy R. Jisung Park’s research findings on the relationship between heat and student test performance. Air pollution and heat are becoming increasing concerns as a result of climate change, and research indicates that these factors may inhibit student performance in classrooms. In a study conducted in New York City, Park found that hot testing days reduced students’ performance on Regents exams, which are required for graduation in New York, thus decreasing the probability of a student graduating from high school. He found that students are 10% more likely to fail an exam when the temperature is 90 degrees than when it’s 72 degrees. Park also co-authored a study that examined PSAT scores across the country and found that students “had lower scores if they experienced hotter school days in the years preceding the test, with extreme heat being particularly damaging.”