Monday, September 1, 2014

"What's In A Name?" - Hard Questions from Save Your Adult School

This Save Your Adult School post asks hard questions about why K12 Adult Schools have faced so many challenges in recent years.  I've reprinted it here with the author's permission. 

What’s in a Name

What is the real reason for California’s relentless attack on its beleaguered adult schools? Could it be our name? Adult schools have to ask themselves questions like this, because there doesn’t seem to be a rational explanation for the way state government has continually attacked its adult schools and put them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the community colleges at every turn. It has nothing to do with facts or data. For facts and data we go to the Legislative Analysts’ Office, which issued an extensive report on both community colleges and adult schools in 2012 entitled “Restructuring California’s Adult Education System”. On page 15 of that report, the LAO noted that outcomes for adult schools and community college non-credit programs are comparable.

So if our performance is comparable to the community colleges, why are we continually treated as the unwanted stepchild? Sometimes it feels as if we are being blamed for the recession of 2008. Don’t look at those Wall Street traders and bankers! Just look at that grandma taking a computer class! How about that immigrant mom learning English! What a bunch of freeloaders! It must be their fault.

Just look at the record:
The state removed protections on adult school funding, allowing school districts to repurpose adult school monies for any use (“categorical flexibility”). At the same time, the state stopped paying adult schools for ADA (money based on attendance), removing the ability of adult schools to generate income. Instead, school districts with adult schools (not all had them) began to receive a yearly block grant in the amount their adult school earned during the last year they were able to collect ADA. Until 2013, they could decide to use some of this money to fund their adult schools, or not.
2008 was a bad year for education in general. All branches of education were severely cut, including school districts and community colleges. But the very existence of adult schools was put at risk, and some of them became extinct.
The California Strategic Plan for Adult Education was issued, with no input from students or teachers. The announcement of the general public comment period in late 2011 was accompanied by a notice that no significant revisions would be made to the plan; in other words, the public comment period was a sham. The strategic plan noted that there is a significant return on investment in adult education in the form of improvements in civic participation, public health and improved educational outcomes for children of adult education students. (Again, note that FACTS show that adult schools are actually doing a good job). The plan then went on to propose eliminating many of the programs that produce these desirable results (such as Older Adult and Parent Education programs).
The Legislative Analyst’s Report “Restructuring California’s Adult Education System” was issued. This report was about both adult schools and community colleges, and, as noted above, it found that adult schools do as good a job as community colleges do. However, the report subtly framed the issue  and threw around some incendiary language that suggested that adult schools were the problem, even though there were no facts in the report to support this insinuation.
January 2013
Governor Brown proposed to abolish adult schools and have community colleges take over all of their functions.
May 2013
Rather than destroying adult schools outright, the state directed community colleges and adult schools to come together in regional consortia. The consortia are defined by community college districts; adult schools can only enter into consortia with community colleges outside their districts if their own CC district does not want to consort. In other words, adult schools have no autonomy to pick their own partners.   The community colleges can opt out of the consortia if they want, and the community colleges have their own funding whether they join consortia or not. Adult schools still have no independent funding; there is a vague promise of some kind of funding through the consortia beginning in 2015.

The legislature does require school districts that haven’t managed to completely close down their adult schools yet to keep funding their adult schools at the same level that they funded them in 2013 for two years. That’s it. No guarantees after 2015, nothing to restore the adult schools that have been devastated. Be grateful we didn’t abolish you.

So, short version:

2008   We’re cancelling your funding and throwing you on the mercy of your school districts. Fend for yourselves. Good luck!

2013   OK, we’ve decided to destroy you now. You don’t deserve to exist.

Later 2013 OK, we’ve decided not to destroy you right away. But still no funding! Get into a consortium with the community colleges. Maybe you’d better do everything they say. After all, they have funding and you don’t.

So why the unwanted child treatment, really? There are no facts to support it anywhere in the two extensive reports that were done, the strategic plan and the LAO report. Both reports put us down with generalities, but the actual facts in the reports show that we’re doing a good job.

Maybe it’s our name. Seriously. Juliet famously sighed that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” She meant that it doesn’t matter what you call something. However, names are powerful. When there is no rational reason for something, sometimes we have to look at words and the power of their subliminal associations. So “community colleges” vs. “adult schools”. What are the associations of for those words?

Everyone knows the educational system in the U.S. is defined by a strict hierarchy. At the tippy top of our alleged meritocracy: the Ivy League colleges, of course! They are schools for the elite. No one will ever question their efficacy. There won’t be a lot of reports about them and how they need restructuring. They are assumed effective. The fact that they admit mediocrities like our former president George W. Bush because they are the sons and daughters of the wealthy and powerful doesn’t hurt them; it actually adds to their cachet. The name Harvard sounds impressive and mildly intimidating even with the word “Lampoon” after it.

After the Ivy League schools come the great public universities, like the U.C. system in California, then the state colleges (in California, at least), then the community colleges. Everyone knows where these institutions fall in the hierarchy. Community colleges are certainly the low man on the higher education totem pole, but they are still part of the higher education system. They still have the word “college” in their name. And then “community”! Community is a warm and fuzzy word that everyone likes. They just sound more prestigious and important than “adult school”.

And where do adult schools stand in this hierarchy? Right at the bottom, below elementary schools. On the educational ladder, adult schools are one rung above the School of Hard Knocks.
And that name! Take “school”. School is a simple word, a humble word. It isn’t grand like “university” or even “college”. And it is a word with rich and complex associations both good and bad. In the minds of most societies with a formal educational system, the world “school” is so closely associated with childhood that it is difficult to separate the two.

And, for most of us, school is an intense experience which we go through when we are young and vulnerable. The word cannot help but elicit, somewhere deep down, strong emotions. The loneliness of a first long separation from a parent, the teacher who made you cry, the bully in the hall, the playground humiliation – echoes of all of these resound when you hear the word “school”, as do the memories of friends you made, the things you learned, the fun you had, and your gratitude at being an educated person. The negative associations we all have with our school days are probably one of the reasons it is so easy for “reformers” to beat up on schools and teachers these days.

So a name like “adult school” probably elicits, deep down, a certain cognitive dissonance for most people. School is for children. So what’s wrong with those adults that are still in school? Why didn’t they get it the first time? Even very sophisticated people, like our legislators and governor, may have this reaction at a subconscious level. People are much more comfortable with the idea of adults, preferably young adults, in college than they are with the idea of adults in school.

These are gut reactions, subliminal reactions, but such reactions are powerful. The facts in the LAO report and the State Strategic Plan report showing that adult schools are effective and a good investment don’t make a dent in such visceral responses.

So you may think I am about to suggest that we find another name for this rose, something euphemistic and pretentious like “Citizens’ Success Academy”.   But I think it would be better to take the course of movements that took words that had been slurs and turned them into words to be proud of. I propose that we turn the stigma on its head and proclaim everywhere that we are adult school teachers, students and supporters, and that we are proud of it. Or we could just call ourselves the Harvard of Second Chances,  orthe Princeton of those who never even got a first chance.

Advice from Adult Ed Advocates in Montebello

C  A  L  I  F  O  R  N  I  A 
                                                        A Newsletter on Adult Education in California August 2014
As the state legislature finishes its two-year session on August 31st, Adult Education enters a period of uncertainty unlike any other experienced in recent years. With Fall 2014 around the corner, it is a good time to focus on the advocacy that is necessary to make sure Adult Education is funded in July 2015. The immediate looming items are the state collection of AB 86 consortia plans and the Governor’s 2015-16 budget introduction on January 10th that will send the first signals on what to expect in Adult Education funding for 2015-16. 

Meanwhile, as the state Legislature wraps its session, legislators are making plans to work primarily out of home district offices. This becomes an excellent time to reach out to local legislators and tell them your adult education story. 

Fall 2014 promises to be a challenging period for Adult Education in California because of the uncertainties on the future of the program. But this period also provides opportunities to balance the effects of the uncertainties: 


These include, but are not limited to, the following:

• A New Program with State Support: Based on the expectations and work of AB 86 Adult Education consortia, the potential exists to establish a sound adult education program that matches California’s needs for adult literacy and job training with its employment opportunities.

 • Defining Roles and Responsibilities: AB 86 outcomes also have the potential for defining roles for K-12 adult education and non-credit community college, including delineating who is responsible for delivering which program.

• Adequate Funding: A model that supports instruction and support services. 


A commitment for Adult Education funding is in AB 86: “It is the intent of the Legislature to provide additional funding in the 2015-16 fiscal year to the regional consortia to expand and improve the provision of adult education.”


Negative consequences could be the result of the continued use of phrases that are counter-productive:

• Reinforcing the idea of community colleges taking over Adult Education.

• Continuing to say that Adult Education does not have 2015-16 funding.

• Taking on the Governor by mounting a campaign aimed at him rather than focusing on advocacy with the 140 legislators.


The lack of a clear and positive statement on what to expect for 2015-16 will add to the rumors and confusion regarding the future of the Adult Education. 

WHAT TO DO? . . . .

Advocate at the local offices of state legislators, and make sure your AB 86 consortium plan includes Adult Education 2015-16 funding recommendations. 

Developed by Adult Education Advocates in the Montebello Community

Montebello Adult School

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Re-Shaping Public Education: The I's that See the We

Clearly, this is a perspective piece.

Thank you to Alliance for California Adult Schools for finding the document it's based on and sharing it on the A4CAS Facebook page.

I am sharing and analyzing the following 2011 Community College Academic Senate Resolution because I think it reveals a lot about how we've gotten to where we are now...

Hit the "read more" link to see and understand more...

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Truth Is K12 Adult Schools Need Dedicated Funding

The December 2012 LAO - Legislative Analyst Office - Report on Adult Education has served in many ways as a template for reform in Adult Education.

(Click here to read the report:  Restructuring California's Adult Education System.)

But one important recommendation - to reinstate Adult Education as a categorical when flexibility ends in June of 2015 - has been ignored.

Reinstating Adult Ed as a categorical may or may not be a viable option.  Many think it's not politically possible. 

But the ever-increasing number of signatures on the Restore Protected Funding for K-12 Adult Education Petition, CCAE's Legislative Update and Call to Action Webinar, and grassroots action around the state all make one thing clear:

K12 Adult Education needs a stable source of funding separate from the community college system.

Within the Regional Consortia system, both Community Colleges and K12 Adult Schools are mandated to provide Adult Education, but only Community Colleges have secure funding. And they will continue to have secure funding because their funding exists independent of the Regional Consortia system.  They have apportionment (this is what their funding is called).  They are secure.  On top of their apportionment money, they may get extra money for Adult Education - which may come in through the Community College Chancellor's Office.

K12 Adult Schools are not secure.  K12 Adult Schools are not safe.  K12 Adult Schools have been mandated to do a job but haven't been given the means to do the job and can't properly prepare to do it, given the fact they don't know what the future holds.

This is the plain truth.
It is a also a truth some folks have danced around when asked to explain how K12 Adult Schools can survive this challenge.  And it is a truth that has sometimes created division amongst Adult Ed advocates in their desperation to figure out a way to save K12 Adult Schools.

It is not, however, a truth which K12 Adult Schools or their advocates created.

It is just a truth they must face...  that K12 Adult Schools, themselves, need stabilizing if they are to continue on as the stabilizing fourth leg of California's Public Education system.

In what form that stability will come - a return to categorical status, some new form of dedicated funding specific to K12 Adult Schools, or some other way - we don't know. 

We just know if it doesn't happen, more K12 Adult Schools will collapse, which will destabilize our public education system, economy, and social stability.

This December 2012 Edsource article provides helpful information.   I've highlighted the section with quotes from Paul Steenhausen, who wrote the LAO Report.

California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office says the state’s embattled adult education system needs a dedicated and permanent funding stream that can’t be appropriated for other school programs when the state budget goes south.
Restructuring California’s Adult Education System calls for the state Legislature to restore adult education as a categorical program. Adult Ed advocates lauded the proposal, even though it relies on funding that is speculative and requires a commitment from legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown that they have so far not shown.
Adult schools are an important strand in the state’s safety net, offering community-based classes to some of the state’s neediest adults, ranging from the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly to ex-offenders reentering society, immigrants trying to learn English and become citizens, and high school dropouts seeking to earn their GEDs.
Until the 2008-09 academic year, adult education was funded through one of the dozens of categorical programs that could be used only for their stated purpose. But as part of the February 2009 state budget plan, legislators approved what’s known as “categorical flex,” giving school districts the authority to use funds from 40 categorical programs, including adult education, for any educational purpose.
Chris Nelson, State President of the California Council for Adult Education. Photo courtesy CCAE. (Click to enlarge)
The LAO report says that move signaled “adult schools’ lower priority within the K-12 system.” Since then, local school boards have funneled as much as 70 percent of statewide adult ed funds to support K-12 programs, according to Chris Nelson, president of the California Council for Adult Education.

At least 35 programs have shut down as a result, and many of the 300 remaining programs are operating on shoestring budgets. Altogether, the LAO estimates that in 2011-12, the state and federal governments spent about $400 million on district-run adult schools, down from $854 million before flex started.

Many community colleges also offer adult education classes, spending about $1.7 billion last year, according to the LAO, but the colleges take that money from their regular state funding and not from separate categorical accounts.

Categorical flex is due to expire at the end of the 2014-15 school year, and the LAO is recommending that starting in 2015-16 adult education be restored as a categorical program with a dedicated funding stream. The program is a good candidate for restoration of funds, said Paul Steenhausen, who wrote the LAO report, because it reaches a distinct, underserved population.

“Adult education is a different animal,” Steenhausen said. Because it doesn’t serve K-12 students, it is “fundamentally different from other categoricals.”

However, many observers believe that the current level of flexible funding will continue beyond 2014-15 unless Gov. Brown convinces the Legislature to reconfigure the school finance system using a weighted student formula (WSF). Under this approach, money would follow the student, so schools enrolling students with greater needs, such as English learners and those from low-income families, would receive more funds. When Gov. Brown first proposed WSF last January, he didn’t support separate funding for adult education, leading advocates to oppose it.

Even the recent passage of Proposition 30, which increases funding to schools through a combination of a small sales tax increase and higher income taxes on the wealthiest Californians, has not revived support for adult education, according to Nelson.

“We’re still hearing that programs are being threatened with being cut more,” Nelson said. “I have not heard of anybody who has said they’re going to get an increase because of Prop. 30.”
Roadmap to restructuring Adult Ed, California Legislative Analyst’s Office. (Click to enlarge)
Instead, Nelson said he believes that school districts will be under pressure to use increased revenues to provide raises for teachers. “We’re all fighting for every little dollar, and it’s unfortunate how this has played out – one program against another.”

Nelson described the situation in Sonoma County, which had 11 adult education schools a few years ago, but has only one remaining program, in Petaluma. That program is being inundated by prospective students from all over the county. Nelson expects that Petaluma, which doesn’t have the capacity to serve so many people, will soon have to restrict its program to city residents.

One reason adult education may lack support from some legislators is the program’s uneven distribution across the state. Adult ed schools are more common in urban than rural communities.
The LAO report addresses this issue. The LAO is predicting that as the economy improves, the state will soon be receiving more funds that must be spent on K-14 education. The report recommends that some of this new money should be allocated to adult education based on regional needs and the ability of districts, colleges and local businesses to work as a team to avoid duplication of services and provide smooth pathways for students to jobs and college. The LAO also recommends that funding be allocated based on student outcomes – such as how many successfully complete courses – the way federal funds are now distributed.

But, finally, “the bigger issue is how is adult ed going to get funded,” Nelson said. “The LAO does recommend designated funding for adult ed, and that’s very key.”

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

K12 Adult Schools: Blueprints for Civic Action

This week the Final Report of the K-12 Task Force on California Civic Learning was released.

The purpose of the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning, co-chaired by Justice Judith McConnell and Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools David Gordon, was to ensure that Californians have the skills to participate in work, community, and civic life in the 21st century.

I was struck by the title: "Revitalizing K-12 Civic Learning in California:  A Blueprint for Action."
In so many ways, K-12 Adult Schools, in both form and function, are just such a blueprint.

Hit the "read more" link to learn why.

Include Teachers in the RC Planning Process

Here is a letter to CDE (California Department of Education) Superintendent from the presidents of the two largest teachers unions, CFT (California Federation of Teachers) and CTA (California Teachers Association) urging him to include teachers in the planning process for the new Regional Consortia system.
The letter is from April of 2014 - so it is not new - but I had not included it on this blog before and one purpose of the blog is to be a library of information which others can use in our work to save and rebuild Adult Education, especially K12 Adult Schools. 


Adult Education, like every branch of public education but even more so, is being re-formed.  It is being pruned and trimmed so that it grows in new directions.
Because public education is for the public and paid for by the public, we all need to be in on what is happening.   Including teachers is one way to make sure that happens.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Data and Decisions: 2011 Little Hoover Report

The following testimony was given in 2011.  I am posting it here because I think it contains important data and important conclusions.  You can agree or argue with the conclusions.  You can use the data to better understand where we've come from and decide where we should best go next.

California Department of Education,
Adult Education Testimony Little Hoover Commission 
Respectfully submitted by Dr. Patrick Ainsworth,
Director of Secondary, Career, and Adult Learning Division
and Ms. Debra Jones, Administrator, Adult Education Office June 23, 2011 

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Little Hoover Commission and to share the vital issues surrounding adult education and the impacts of the current budget reductions. Adult Education has a long history in California serving adults since 1856. The first classes were taught in the basement of Old St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco to Chinese immigrants. Since that time, the program has grown, and in 2008 adult education served 1.2 million adults. 

The current fiscal crisis has impacted hundreds of thousands of adults in California. Flexibility has redirected the Adult Education budget of 634 million dollars to the kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12) system to be used for any educational purpose. School districts and school boards have had to make difficult decisions in this time of limited resources. It is estimated that half of the 2011 adult education budget was spent on adult education.  

Hit the "read more" link to get the full scoop.