Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Victory Reconsidered

Last week I sent out the following update to everyone who signed the Rebuild Adult Ed Petition:

Remember this?  Victory declared?

Well, I’m a little worried about that now.

Hit the "read more" link to find out why.

Not so much that I’m retracting the victory, which Move On would allow me to do.

But enough to send you this update.   And ask you to sign a new petition.

And I gotta tell you right now, this is kind of a long update because I’m going to try to explain things in as clear a way as I know how, with all the facts that I can find, to state things clearly and directly.  And then you decide:  Are things okay?  Does more work need to be done?   Should I sign the new petition?  Or should I do something else? 

If you don’t want to read it all, you can skip to the bottom to the link for the new petition.

I do recommend, if you want a real update, that you read through it.  You can go slow and you can take breaks and you can, of course, get a beverage of your choice to sip as you go.  And like I say, I’m really trying to break this stuff down… because honestly, sometimes the details of it all feel like they are gonna crack my head open.  Youch – I never wanted to get into education because of all this stuff.  So many rules, policies, changes in curriculum, fights over money and points of views and strategies.  Clashes of personalities and power plays.  Count me out!  Give me a bicycle and a pen and paper and some paint and I’m good to go!   But life took me in another direction and here I am:  Stuck in the middle with you

And honestly, I think what’s happening is important enough that we deal with all the crap – the reading through everything, understanding it better, thinking about it, and then making choices.  Because a lot is at stake.  The CDE is using that term “stakeholder.”  I guess that comes from the stake you make on property, a gold mine, that kind of thing.  Not the kind of stakeholder in a vampire movie.   And I have to say, that’s a good word for it.  The gold here is our future, our people, our state.  And yes, we are all stakeholders.  It matters.  Very much.

So here goes:

The 500 million that was promised in the May Revise somehow didn’t make it into the budget we have today.

K12 Adult Schools were NOT folded into the Community College system.   On that point, victory stands.

But…  things are not terrific.

We have now a new Regional Consortia system, and to tell you the truth, it’s not real great for K12 Adult Schools.  You can read my translation of a letter from Superintendent Torlakson and Chancellor Harris here.

(That’s no slam on Torlakson, by the way.  I appreciate that man more and more.)

Why is it not real great?  Because Community Colleges really have the advantage in that arrangement.

To review the arrangement:  Region by region, consortia will decide what Adult Ed is provided to whom by whom.  Each consortium much have a K12 Adult School and a Community College and one or the other can the fiscal agent (the banker).  They decide between them who is the fiscal agent.  They can also have other Adult Ed providers like Library Family Literacy programs, Jails and Prisons, etc. 

Here’s the thing:  Community Colleges don’t have to be in the consortia.  They can say, “No thanks” and still do their thing, providing “regular,” ie credit Community Colleges classes and non-credit – Adult Ed – classes.  They have their own funds.  Community Colleges don’t need the Regional Consortia.

But K12 Adult Schools do need the Regional Consortia.  If they want to get money, they need to be in one.

Because K12 Adult Schools don’t have their own money.  They don’t have Designated Funding.  They they’re not a non-flexible categorical anymore.  They used to be.  But not anymore.  That ended five years ago.  

So K12 Adult Schools are very vulnerable.  They have no predictable, dependable source of income. It’s sort of like planning to feed and house and clothe a large family when you don’t know if you have any money coming in.  It makes it hard to plan – not to mention keep your family going.
Meanwhile, the Community Colleges that K12 Adult Schools are partnering up with do have money they can depend on and plan with.  K12 Adult Schools need the Community Colleges but not the other way around. 

You know how that goes… when one person needs the other one more than visa-versa.  I mean, you’ve been in that kind of relationship somewhere along the way, right?   At work, at home, in your love life?  In a nutshell, inequality of power – and a set up for squirrelly behavior, for sure.

What else?

In the rulebook for the new Regional Consortia,

The 2013–14 State Budget appropriated $25 million to the California Community College Chancellors Office (CCCCO) to allocate funding for two-year planning and implementation grants. (From the Letter about AB 86).

That means the money is going into the Community College side of things.  They hold the money.


The CCCCO and the California Department of Education (CDE) are working in partnership to implement the requirements outlined in AB 86. (From the AB 86 Letter)

That means the Community College system and the CDE are sort of the Umpires of the game. That’s cool – except remember, the Community Colleges are also players in the game.  So they are now bankers and umpires and players.

That’s okay if everybody plays fair – but why make it so easy not to?  Why set things up so there’s an inequality of power in the first place? 

That’s an important question and not one I’m going to try to answer here.  (I don’t have the answer for it, anyway!) 

What I’m focused on is ensuring the stability and renewal of K12 Adult Schools.  

I like the idea of working together.  The LAO and Governor Brown and the Legislature and the CDE are not wrong in saying, let’s make sure these two systems – both providing Adult Education - connect, communicate, and synch up.  That makes sense. 

But it needs to be set up in a way where each system has equal ground, equal footing – otherwise, it’s not true unity.  Instead, there is the potential for tyranny.  And that's when the fear-based behavior starts up – backbiting, paranoia, accusations of wrongdoing, stonewalling, and all the other hallmarks of bad government or a bad marriage.

As Kristen Pursely wrote in the Save Our Adult School blog, “The success of the union will depend on whether it is a coming together of two equal partners.” 

That’s why, if we want the new Regional Consortia system to succeed, we need to be concerned about equality.

So returning to the rulebook, check this out:

"The intent of AB 86 is to better position California—via these consortia—for incremental investments starting with the 2015–16 fiscal year to expand and improve the provision of adult education."

I think we can interpret that to mean, if K12 Adult schools and Community Colleges do a good job in the Regional Consortia, if they show they can work together and they do work together, then they will be in the position to receive funds – “incrementally” – that is, little by little.

Obviously the goal here is to encourage unity – but in a way that skips over the foundation for real unity:  equality.  Instead we get a carrot for good behavior.  That’s okay.  I do that as a parent.  But it’s not the same.  And when the inevitable problems arise where there is inequality, it won’t be a very good band-aid, either.  I can tell you that from my many years working as a nanny and from being the big sister of two close-in-age siblings.  Faced with the choice of real equality with your sibling or a piece of candy, most people will choose fighting for real equality, fighting being the operative word.

I am all for unity – that’s why I’ve tried to connect with folks all across the state, in both K12 Adult Schools and Community Colleges and why I suggested the Unity in Red Day.  I didn’t grow up in blended families for nothing.  I’m related to about a zillion people by blood, law or marriage and I claim every one of them as family.  I get that unity is not just possible.  It’s real.

I also get that in order to have a functioning unity – not just symbolic – you need equality of power.
In the case of Adult Education, that means equality of funding and equality of voice.

AB 86 is instructions for what can lead to Designated Funding – but it is not actual money.

As I said in an AEM post, there is money to spend on planning but no money to plan on spending.
We still need Designated Funding.

And… while we have the Maintenance of Effort Clause (thank you, Legislature!) which was put through to prevent any more K12 Adult School closures, this MOE clause was disregarded in Riverside, which makes me worry:  Will this stopgap be disregarded elsewhere?

And what’s gonna happen in Riverside?  Will there be consequences for the District cutting the Adult School budget?  Will the District realize they need to honor the intent of the Legislature and continue funding the Adult School at the same level it did last year?   I don't know.  But I am concerned.  Deeply.  Riverside, as do so many communities across this state, needs ESL,GED & High School Diploma, Career Tech, Adults with Disabilities, Parent Education, Older Adults, and all the other programs the Adult School used to provide.  The programs may have gone away but the need didn’t.

So what’s the solution?

Regarding the way the Regional Consortia is set up, I think it needs some adjusting.  I’m not trying to take that all on here.  I am not a policy wonk.  It's a miracle I've gotten this far on just the one cup of coffee.

Regarding Designated Funding, K12 Adult Schools need some.  That’s what I was asking for in the first petition and because it fell through, that’s why I’m writing you now.

Designated Funding would do a great deal to make sure Adult Schools stabilize, and from that solid base, they can negotiate and navigate with their partners, the Community Colleges, in the new Regional Consortia system, aiming to deliver the best Adult Education possible, to the people of California.

To that end, Karen Arthur, who started the Alliance for California Adult Schools, has come up with a
new petition:   Restore Protected Funding for K12 Adult Education in California.

It would make K12 Adult Education a non-flexible categorical within the new LCFF – Local Control Funding Formula.

That means no one can mess with the funding for K12 Adult Schools.  No one can take it, borrow it, use it, or hold it.  The money for K12 Adult Schools goes to K12 Adult Schools.  Period.  That’s how it used to be before this budget crisis hit and that’s how it needs to be if K12 Adult Schools are going to continue.

If there isn’t that sort of stability, chances are they’ll get hacked and trimmed and rolled over, just as it seems, via Riverside, is starting up again.

You can stop reading here – after you’ve checked out the new petition - or you can keep reading for what should probably be called the wafer thin mint.  Continue reading at your own risk.

If you’re read my updates (and if you haven’t, I understand), you may think I am a fundamentally optimistic person.  In many ways, I am.  Sometimes I don’t even know why because I didn’t used to be.  But I am now.  And it’s because I realized we really do have power. I have power. You have power.  We just have to use it. 

I’m also a realist.  I see that if we don’t use our power, just like the need for Adult Education, our power doesn’t go away.  It just gets used by someone else.

So I’m optimistic. And I’m realistic.

We have some problems.  We don’t need to be afraid of them. We need to deal with them.
And we can.

We have some options.

This is one of them.

I will tell you straight out that not everyone agrees with what to do about this problem. Some folks say that Gov. Brown will never approve of a solution like this.  That might be true.  To that I say, figuring out what Gov. Brown wants and giving it to him is not my job. 

My job, within a democracy, is to learn about things, think about them, and make choices.
I think making K12 Adult Education a non-flexible categorical is a good choice. *

Maybe, if enough people think about this and decide that, the Governor will agree.  Or maybe he won’t.  But maybe the Legislature will agree.  We don’t all have to agree about everything.

As a member of a very large and very blended and very complex family that does not agree about everything, I can tell you:  Unity and equality are not about homogeneity.

What they are about is the equal opportunity  - and responsibility - to learn and think and voice opinion.  They are about listening to and thinking about others' opinions with respect.   And after such sharing and listening - and sometimes some arguing - an agreement on what action to take is reached.  And then, together, the group moves forward.  What looks like unity  involves a lot of individuality.  Hundred and thousands and millions of choices to think and share and listen to each other.  To care about what the other person needs and wants.

This is how democracy – and families and communities – work.

It’s hard, demanding work.  It’s work that makes you want to sit down and pretend you don’t have a family or a community or a democracy and watch a tv show about other people and their problems (funny how we do that, isn’t it?) or go for a walk or dance your heart out or take a nap or sit in the sun and listen to the bees breathe or whatever it is that works for you when you’re so sick of all the disagreeing.

Me, too.

But then you gotta get back in.  It’s the only way.

Otherwise, you’re giving up your power and honestly, you don’t want to do that.

It might seem like a good thing – power and responsibility being the same and all – but you don’t want to do that.  It just leads to crap, believe me.

Two more things:

One, sometimes the Governor doesn’t like things and people speak up and he listens.  I think we did that. That’s why I did declare Victory on this petition. Because the Governor wanted to put all Adult Ed inside the Community College system and we said no, don’t!  And he listened.  We might not have gotten all we wanted but we got some.  Because we did our part!  We learned about things, thought about things, and made choices. We used our voices.  And it worked.  A lot. 

As I said, my job is not to figure out what everyone wants and give it to them.  Yes, I am all for strategy.  I have that side to me. I have tried hard to be strategic in my work to renew and rebuild Adult Education.  But strategy can never come before real purpose, real heart.

And my heart is with Adult Education – particularly, K12 Adult Schools.  The old fashioned “night schools” like where my grandma used to teach ESL to the parents of the kids she taught Elementary School to in the daytime.

I know the good they do.  I know the good they used to do – before all these cuts and closures – and I know the good they can do and need to do as move forward to meet the challenges of Immigration Reform, Recovery from the Recession, and Aging Boomers.  Not to mention Global Warming.  Sorry to throw that in there but I think a healthy, educated people is better able to face challenges, and baby, we got some challenges headed our way!   Water problems, prison problems, political problems, inequality of wealth problems, healthcare problems – lots of stuff for us to learn about, think about, and make choices about.

Scary?  Certainly, daunting.  Those are big problems.

But we have power.  Real power.

We have this great system of government – democracy!   Representational democracy!

And all these great tech tools for communication – Social Media!  Twitter! (Thank goodness I don’t use it, yet.)  Online Petitions!

If we will just use them!

We can do so much.

And very importantly – most importantly – we have each other.

Those same people sitting next to you in the back seat, the ones who are on “your side” and touching you and hitting you and bugging you and saying the same annoying thing to you over and over and over, not to mention smacking their gum and stealing your candy, those people are your teammates, your tribe, your people.

And they’re really cool.

Take a look at them.  Sometimes the ones who are most annoying are just the ones you need in a pinch, the ones who rescue you, have your back, and rub your back after you’ve had a hard day.

We need each other.

We need to take care of each other.

We need to see each other as we really are – with strengths and needs and problems – and work together for real unity.

A unity that begins with equality.

A unity that begins with you.

Please sign the new petition to Restore Protected Funding for K12 Adult Education in California.

At the very least, give these issues some thought.

Thank you for your time and attention.

I know how busy everyone is.  We all have a lot on our plate.  If you made it all the way through this update, you deserve a little something on yours. 

I mean it.  I appreciate you.  Your reading this, your signing the petition, your taking an interest in this matter.

You matter.   Thank you.    Namaste,  Cynthia

* The LAO thinks it's a good choice, too.  In their report, they said this, "To help rebuild and restructure the state’s system of adult education, we recommend the Legislature create a separate line item for adult schools. Specifically, we recommend the Legislature restore adult education as a stand–alone categorical program once flexibility sunsets at the end of 2014–15

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