Edsource is an excellent source of news about education and one of the few news sources to cover Adult Ed adequately.
By Susan Frey
The board’s unanimous vote allocates $1 million next year for the 142-year-old adult education program, the second-oldest and once the fifth-largest in the state. The program, now a shadow of its former self, became the poster child of the movement to save K-12 adult schools after the board voted earlier this year to stop funding the program. It was slated to end in June.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to streamline adult education by creating regional consortia made up of community colleges and school districts appears to have played a role in the board’s decision. Brown’s plan calls for allocating $500 million in dedicated funding for these consortia. But the funds won’t be available until 2015-16. To encourage districts to hang onto adult ed without dedicated funds for the next two years, the proposal would allocate $350 million – 70 percent – to pre-existing programs.
By keeping its program alive, Oakland would have access to those funds. Oakland Board of Education president David Kakishiba said he was intrigued by the regional consortia approach.
Adult education is an important strand in the state’s safety net, offering community-based classes to some of the state’s neediest adults. Classes include English as a Second Language, literacy, GED and high school diploma, recreation and enrichment classes for disabled and older adults, parent education and career-technical programs. Oakland now only offers literacy for parents, GED and a few career-technical programs.
The Oakland school board also responded to a crowd of adult education supporters – including those in the GED program who were dressed in caps and gowns – who spoke, often with great passion, about the need for adult education programs in the community.
“A lot of my friends and family don’t have GEDs yet,” said Ivon Reyes, who earned his GED this year and attended the board meeting in his cap and gown. “I think it is important for us to do something so they can get one in the future.”
Carolyn Chin, who teaches all five GED subjects, said she was “gratified.”
“It means that some people who are very, very close to graduating will be able to finish,” she said.
One of those students is Isela Palma Marcelino, who attended Wednesday’s meeting. She has passed three of the GED tests and needs more help to finish the other two.
“I really need the class,” she said. “I want to work in a day care center and they require a GED.” Marcelino also plans to go to college and says studying for the GED has made it possible for her to help her children with their homework.
“We really need the GED for many, many things – good things,” she said.
Chris Nelson, Oakland adult school administrator and president of the California Council on Adult Education, said the board’s decision only keeps the program funded for one more year. “We don’t know how it’s going to all land,” he said.
That’s partly because the governor’s proposal is far from a done deal. During a hearing on adult education in front of the Assembly subcommittee on education on May 20, representatives from the Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, the California Department of Education, the state Department of Finance, and the Legislative Analyst’s office all supported the idea of regional consortia. But that is where the consensus ended.
Paul Steenhausen from the Legislative Analyst’s Office said that the incentive appears to be working for some districts, but others are planning to abandon their adult programs. Those districts will choose to “forego access to future monies because they want to maximize funding for K-12,” he said. “The only way to be sure (K-12 adult education) will survive is through categorical spending.”
During the hearing, subcommittee chair Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, also questioned the lack of dedicated funding during the next two years.
“The incentive won’t matter if there are no adult programs left at the end of next year,” she said. She later added, “If you are genuine about the planning (of consortia), you need to be equally genuine in preserving programs. Otherwise it looks like a plan to obliterate.”
Erin Gabel, director of government affairs for the California Department of Education, said the two goals need to be separated. One is to “stop the short-term hemorrhaging (of adult programs) and then the laudable goal to think long-term and holistically,” she said.
Bonilla also questioned why the proposal requires funding to go through the community colleges, which on the surface at least appears to give them more authority.
Mario Rodriguez, a budget analyst with the California Department of Finance, said the community colleges already have regional districts – 72 throughout the state, compared to about 1,000 school districts. He said the intent of the proposal is for districts and community colleges to share equally in the decision making in how the dedicated funds are spent. If one community college does not want to take on adult education programs, a neighboring district could.
Bonilla questioned why a “far-flung” community college district would be the fiscal agent if a school district is providing the programs. She called for flexibility in determining which entity – a school district or a community college – would administer the funds. It should be based on which organization is taking the lead in providing the programs, she said.
Video of Budget Subcommittee #2, Education Finance, California State Assembly
2013-14 Revised Budget Summary, Department of Finance
The 2013-14 Budget: May Revision, Legislative Analyst’s Office
Restructuring California’s Adult Education System, Legislative Analyst’s Office, Dec. 5, 2012
Linking Adults to Opportunity: Adult Education Strategic Plan, California Department of Education, November 2011
At Risk: Adult Schools in California, EdSource, June 2012
Serving Students, Serving California: Updating Community Colleges to Meet Evolving Demands, Little Hoover Commission, February 2012