Friday, March 16, 2012

How Things Work - Part 2

In order to understand what is going on now in adult education, we need to understand how things used to be.

Funding prior to 08-09:

Adult Schools were a categorical program. Examples of other categorical programs are school lunches and special education. You can go to
to see a list of what categoricals were in 2010-2011.

Categoricals received funding based on student attendance hours, also known as average daily attendance (ADA). In other words, the more students came to school and sat in seats and learned things, the more funding there was for the programs that were helping them.

School districts could not take money from one categorical program and use it for another purpose. For this reason, adult education - and all other categoricals - had protected funding.

And important to understand: this was how it always was. Year after year after year for decades, this was how adult education - and other categoricals - were funded.

Funding from 08-09 to present (and by statute until 14-15):

School districts receive money for categoricals from the state in a lump sum based on how much money was received in 07-08 minus 20%. School districts can now use any categorical money for any purpose. This is called flexibility. In other words, money for adult education can now be used for other school district's needs.

Important to remember: School districts all across the state are hurting. There have been cutbacks of all kinds. They sometimes need the money from categorical programs like adult education to prop up their own important programs. In other words: educational programs are now pitted against each other.

Adult education helps kids. Educating parents, especially mothers, has a big impact on the achievement of their children. Taking away the opportunities for parents to gain skills in English, literacy, obtain GEDs or high school diplomas, and increase job skills does not help children do better in school.

But the way the situation is set up now, school districts are often forced to make such hard choices.

We know that as things stand now, we are in trouble. Schools are suffering. Students of all ages are suffering. The cost of higher education is going up and up. Adult education is being cutback or completely cut.

Change is needed. People at all levels - Gov. Brown, the State Legislature, schoolboards, school administrators, teachers, support staff, students, teachers' unions, parents, and community members are all discussing how to deal with this situation.

Various things have been proposed. Gov. Brown had a proposal for a change - including raising taxes and increasing sales tax. There has also been a proposal for a "Millionaire's Tax" which increase tax on the highest incomes.

On Thursday, a compromise was struck between these two proposals.

Important to remember: this compromise is a just a proposal. If enough signatures are gathered, it will go on the ballot and people will vote on it. It may or may not pass.

If it passes, there will be more money in the general fund for the state of California. And education is one the things that the general fund pays for.

How much money flows into the pot for education is one issue.

The other issue is back to where we started: do the various educational programs each get a share of that money? Or are they pitted against each other?

Here is what Brown proposes:

Brown 2012 Education budget proposal -Weighted student formula

This would dissolve categoricals (categories of money attached to a school budget, and remember - Adult Education is a categorical) and give the money to districts based on numbers of K-12 English language learners (ELs) and Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL) students they serve.

Why the Brown proposal is bad for Adult Schools:

School districts would no longer receive any money that was derived from Adult Education and so they would no longer have any obligation to deliver classes for adults. Although under flexibility school districts can take the money, many have not. This is partly because they receive money based on the fact they had adult classes in the past and if things go according to current law, flexibility will end after 14/15 and things would return to how they were before.

As you can see, all this is very complicated.

It is easy for everyone to get overwhelmed by the complexity of it and just sort of shut down and let someone else handle the problem.

The problem with that is: this is really OUR problem.

By "our" I mean everyone's - every single person who lives in this state.

Perhaps every single person who lives in the world given the fact that California is generally found to be in the top ten economies in the world.

How we educate our labor force - the current labor force of adults, and the future labor force which is our children, how we educate our citizens and residents, the values and skills we pass on to them - will powerfully affect what happens to this state, and by effect, the world.

It is important that we understand what we are doing. The choices we have made already and the consequences of those choices. The choices we have before us now and possible consequences they will have.

We will all live with the results.

We need to choose wisely.

That's plenty to digest. We'll pick up with more information - about AB 18 and other mattes - in the next post.

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