Thursday, January 30, 2014

Look Three Ways: Jan 29 Hearing on Adult Ed

This is a long post which should be longer.  I want to get it out while it's still in our minds and hearts.  Therefore, I am not trying to cover every aspect of the hearing.  You can watch the whole thing here.  It is not that long - under 3 hours - and you can fast forward through the parts not of interest to you.

This post also contains comments.  I do my best to report information here.  I also do my best to think about things as I go along, asking questions and learning as I go.  I see what I'm doing here as being partly about sharing those questions and observations.  They aren't all there is to know about Adult Education.  They are my best effort to learn, be open, and maintain a commitment to principles.  And they are a work in progress - just like Adult Education in California.

When you're pulling into traffic, there's a general rule for safety:

Look in the direction you want to go, look in the opposite direction, then back to where you're going before pulling out into the flow.

This seems a good rule for us to remember as we move into the flow of change where not just Adult Education is concerned, but public education, as a whole.

The January 29th Oversight Hearing on Adult Education - Joint Senate Committee on Education and Assembly Committee on Higher Education - was a good opportunity to do just that. 

It was called into being by the need for more information for legislators so they can make better informed decisions about Adult Education, including the fate of SB 173, the question of extending the MOE clause, and determining a budget for the new Regional Consortia system when it starts up in 2015.

For those who, like me, are learning as they go, an oversight hearing is just informational - no one votes on anything.

You can view a video of the hearing here.

I attended the hearing, along with 3 ESL Student Leaders from the school where I teach (San Mateo Adult School), and my co-worker, Lisa Dolehide.

So did Kristen Pursley who writes the Save Your Adult School blog.  She wrote a very substantive post about the hearing.  You can read it here.

The three students spoke during the public comment section.  I highly recommend you read what Hitomi, Marco, and Marina said.  We need to hear from more students as make decisions about the future of Adult Education.  If you are a student or know a student who would like to share your perspective on Adult Education, please send me an email at cyn period eagleton and then "at" g and then mail and then period and then com (yes I'm paranoid I'm one of the people who got slammed in the Target thing). I would love to post more student wisdom and perspective on the value of adult education and how best we can renew and rebuild it for the future.

Click here to see the official Agenda and Background Information for the hearing.

And here is my own summary of the hearing, along with a few comments and observations which I'll do my best to put in italics.

As you read through it, you might want to keep the Look Three Ways Rule in mind - look where we want go, look where we've come from, then look again to where we want to go.

Hit the "read more" link to dive in.

1.  Welcome and Opening Remarks

Senator Carol Liu and Assembly Member Das Williams were the co-chairs of the hearing.

Senator Liu recalled her many years of caring about Adult Education.  She chaired the Select Committee on Adult Education when she was in the Assembly.  She noted the connection between job readiness and economy.  She said, "The needs are great and growing and we are not meeting them."  To wit:

*  19% of Californians 25 years old and older have no high school degree
*  22% between 18 and 64 speak English "less than well" (that's a Census term)
* 15.3% live below the poverty line
* Almost 25% live below the poverty line in the Central Valley

Comment Section:

How are we determining how to best lift people out of poverty?

Is anyone looking at information like this?:

If empowering women is the most effective way to eradicate poverty in other countries, why wouldn't that be true here, as well?  And what would be the best way to empower women in poverty in California?  What are their needs?  Is Adult Education meeting them?

I didn't realize that Maria Shriver was scheduled to talk with Gov. Brown about women and poverty the very next day, January 30th.  You can read about that here.

I strongly suggest that we consider that the dynamics which apply and work in other countries apply and work here, too - perhaps even in a heightened way here in multi-cultural California where so many of our people are immigrants. 

Senator Liu noted that her bill, SB 173, raised questions that prompted this hearing but that SB 173, per se, was not the focus of the hearing.  Rather, it was the unmet needs and current status of Adult Education.

Assembly Member Das Williams talked about his district which ranges from Santa Barbara to Oxnard.  His priorities are job skills, poverty, ending waiting lists, and models of sustainability for programs.  Even "deprioritized" aspects of Adult Education are very vital to the state's prosperity, he said.  He believes we can offer them if we change the delivery and offering models.

Comment Section:

When did those programs become deprioritized?  Why?  By whom?  And was that a wise decision we want to continue with?  The Look Three Ways Rule is good to apply here.  Where do we want to go?  Where did we come from?  And again, where do we want to go?

Adult Education is currently half in and half out of a broad mission approach.  The CDE still describes it as a broad mission while the Governor and the LAO advise taking a more narrowed approach and the new funding structure - Regional Consortia most likely funded through some kind of designated funding - adheres to this new, narrowed approach, as does SB 173, Senator Liu's bill.  Legislators differ in their feeling about whether to keep the mission broad and continue to fund all programs or narrow it, not precluding the existence of programs like Older Adults and Parent Education, but excluding them from what is funded through the Regional Consortia through the promised Designated Funding. 

As I see it, things are changing and have been changing - partly in response to a budget crisis and partly in pursuit of new and different goals.  Through both defense and offense moves, we are moving as a state toward a more narrowed approach.

As a grassroots activist, Adult Educator, and Californian, my concern is whether or not the people of California are aware of this shift in direction and support it. 

As an individual human being, I have my own opinion - and the right to it, as do we all.  I do my best to acknowledge all these points on this blog and welcome other ideas, approaches and perspectives.  Contact me if you'd like to present your views as a Perspective piece on this blog.

Senator Liu asked if any members wished to make a comment and Assembly Member Fox who taught Adult Education ESL and K12 Junior High noted that  "The success of our children in school is partially dependent on the assistance they get at home...   So if we want our children to be successful in the future, the parents need the language skills to help them and get good jobs... so this has to be one of our serious priorities."

2.  Historical Perspective/Current Landscape

Paul Steenhausen of the LAO - the Legislative Analyst Office - discussed what is often just called "The LAO Report" in the Adult Ed Community.  Here's a link to it. 

The LAO, if you are not familiar with it, is a government agency whose purpose is to provide non-partisan reports.  It is the Joe Friday of Sacramento.  "Just the facts, Ma'am."

"As you know, the primary purpose is to provide pre-collegiate skills that adults need to be work and be part of civic life... including adults who are incarcerated.  There are other programs primarily for personal interest."

The other programs include Older Adults and Parent Education.

Comment Section:

I am waiting for our culture to understand that parent education is group interest.  In other words, it is in the interest of the group that individual parents, especially mothers, are educated, healthy, and supported, as they do what they do best - which is to raise the people we will be living with now and into the future.  This is not how our culture has viewed things, I understand.  I am suggesting a change in perception which I believe could enable us to create a thriving, sustainable future.  I realize it is not the common view.  I realize it is not the popular view.  That does not make it wrong - nor does that make it right, of course, either.  I ask that you take a moment and consider the role that parents, especially mothers, play in the formation and stability of family, community, culture, and economy.  And then ask yourself, are programs which support parenting and family life of only personal interest? Is an economy which sees prosperity solely the in terms of jobs liable to experience huge economic losses because of health and social instability and loss?  Is there a way we integrate both?  Could increased job and productivity, supported by increased social and health stability, result in a state where profits weren't immediately spent on losses?  Where surpluses didn't have to be spent on high healthcare, court, prison, foster care, and juvenile justice programs, but could instead help us create new ways to access energy, manage water, and deal with Climate Change? 

I think so.  I think they could.  And it think it would be in our best interest as a people to consider such - and soon.  The current state of affairs where we are faced with a strange combination of a budget surplus, dire drought, and a people still suffering from deep losses brought on by the economic recession is a demonstration, to me, of why we need to consider shifting the way we see the problem in order to find sustainable solutions.

Mr. Steenhausen handed out an excellent and short report, "An Overview of California's Adult Education System."  I cannot find it on the LAO website.  I'll put in a call to the LAO and see if they are going to put it up on the site.

Mr. Steenhausen reviewed the two strands of Adult Education - K12 and Community College.

He noted that K12 Adult Schools lost their categorical status, that Community College Adult Education programs are funded through apportionment at a higher funding rate and that both strands have been around a long time, K12 Adult Education for over 100 years and CC since the 1940s.

Mr. Steenhausen said in the view of the LAO, the mission is too broad, stretching finite levels of state resources. 

He said the Community Colleges programs are not consistent.  Later in the hearing, Dr. Bill Scroggins of Mt San Antonio College responded to this point.

Mr. Steenhausen said that there is a lack of coordination between the K12 and CC systems, gaps in the data system, differences in faculty requirements, credentialing, etc.  And there is no coordinated student ID system.

As we know, AB86 is designed to address these issues and in the new delivery system, K12 and Community Colleges will work together, in a coordinated manner to deliver adult education, region by region.

3.  Status of AB86 Consortia and Adult Ed Maintenance of Effort

Meaning how are plans for the new Regional Consortia system going?

Gordon Jackson of the AB86 Cabinet and Debra Jones and Bob Harper of the AB86 Workgroup, along with Paul Steenhausen presented.

Gordon Jackson gave an overview of AB86 and said that things were being "collectively" decided.

Comment Section:

While I know that is true within the Cabinet and the Workshop and I celebrate the partnerships forming within the new Regional Consortia, I am concerned about how he defines "collective."   Who is in that collection of deciders?  If it is only folks at the top, I think important wisdom is not being heard as decisions are being made.

Mr. Jackson listed a number of ways that that AB86 provided information to the public and enabled the public to contribute knowledge.  However, I, as someone who attended one of the Townhalls he mentioned and as someone who has used the AB86 website, do not think those ways were adequate.  And as a "regular person" who is in regular contact with "regular people," my overall feeling is that people feel confused, out of the loop, and concerned about what is happening.  They do not feel they understand what is going on and they do not feel their input is wanted. 

In this sort of situation, I consider what a teacher friend I greatly admire once shared with us:

If a student doesn't understand, she doesn't ask what is wrong with the student, she asks herself what more she needs to do as a teacher to help that student understand.  She sees her role as a teacher as being as responsible for understanding what the student needs to know and then providing that information in a way that works for that student.

If only a few folks felt confused by AB86 and the plans for the Regional Consortia, I would say they were staring out the window when the teacher explained the homework assignment, but that is not the case.  Everyone I talk to, aside from  some administrators, feels this way, so I know there is some truth in it. 

AB86 must do a better job of explaining to "regular people" - the very people which Adult Education aims to serve (current and future students) and the very people who will deliver it (teachers, staff and administrators because not all administrators understand everything, either) - and ensuring that their needs, ideas, and wisdom are heard as we move deeper into the planning and implementation process.

Doing the second will help them do the first.  In other words, by including students and staff, they will know what information the community needs to know and how to best provide it.

How can that be built in structurally?  This is my current question.

Debra Jones, at one point in her presentation, said that "we represented the students."

Comment section:

I think the best representatives for students are students.  Perhaps there could be a student regent such as in the UC Regent structure.  Organizations like VALUE USA, an alumni group of adult learners associated with NCL, the National Coalition for Literacy, provide models for how students can and should speak for themselves in the planning and implementation of Adult Education.

Let us heed the wisdom of Malcolm Knowles and remember that Adult Education is for adults, adults who bring great skills and knowledge with them to the classroom and could bring to the decision making table if they could get a seat at it.

Bob Harper spoke movingly of the need for Adult Education, citing an example of a student who had just told him of why he needed more English in order to move ahead at work but the student was unable to get the needed English because he was on a waiting list.  No student should be on a waiting list, said Bob.

Comment section:

In that, I know we all agree.

He also said the lack of clarity about the future where funding is concerned affects the ability to plan well now.

Comment section:

Excellent point and thank you for saying that out loud.

He said LCFF won't fund Adult Education.

He said 36 of the 72 regions have responded to the call for applications.

Comment section:

Wow.  That's not good.  This reminds me of what Larry Teshara shared at the Townhall in Oakland.  The deadlines are not realistic.

I'd also like to know the locations of the regions which have not turned in the apps.  Are they in rural areas, which in many ways have the greatest need - flip back to Senator Liu's stat about proverty in the Central Valley?  Are in they in areas where K12 Adult Schools were completely closed and Community Colleges never offered Adult Education?  Common wisdom amongst Adult Education teachers (I am one so I hear it) is that where Adult Schools closed, Adult Ed might not regenerate.

This, I think, is a serious concern. 

What can and will help Adult Education regenerate in areas of high need where it was completely or nearly completely shuttered?

And here is something I did not even consider until now, experienced staff makes a difference.  At some schools, like my school, a core of strong staff, admin, and programs survived the cuts.  We have decades of teaching and administrative experience and a deep commitment to seeing Adult Education survive and thrive.  As our program - hopefully - regenerates  and expands in the future, we can mentor new teachers. as they're brought in.  But what about regions where the programs have been closed so long that staff went on to other jobs and other careers?  They will be rebuilding without the experience that can nurture programs through the inevitable rocky years of any new venture.  Can this be addressed through AB86?  Can Regional Consortia mentor each other?  Can students, staff and administrators be sent out as ambassadors to areas in need of support and guidance?

Regional Consortia must meet the March 2014 deadline for a report on their progress.

Here is a helpful map of CC and K12 district boundaries.

For the record, "consortia" is the plural.  "Consortium" is the singular.

I took several quarters of Latin in my strange and winding journey through school.  And ya' know, it has actually served me well.

Part 2 of this section:   And how about the MOE clause?  Is that working?

That's an important question.  As has been reported here on the AEM blog, some districts flouted SB91 and did not follow the MOE clause.

Sorry, no comments here.  Maybe later.  Aiming to get this post done today before noon and I'm already over that deadline.

4.  State Workforce Goals - Assessing the Needs

In other words, if you're going to provide job training, you need to know what to train people for.

Barbara Baran of EDGE, a coaltion committed to skilling the California workforce, said a key focus of EDGE's work is the restoration and restructuring of Adult Ed.  They are thrilled with the promise of AB86 and they want to see it funded.

Chris Hoene, California Budget Project.said the California recover is uneven.  Many workers have been unemployed for more than six months.  And importantly, he said that the lower end is coming back at lower wages.  There are huge unmet needs for Adult Education in workforce and basic skills.   Outside of the San Francisco Bay Area, there are high rates of poverty - both inland and on the coast.  He mentioned that because often, California is perceived as two regions - coastal and inland. 

Comment Section:

Check out the CBP's new report:

This new brief from the CBP looks at poverty in California and the critical role that public services have played in reducing economic hardship.

Carlos Lopez of the Center for Employment Training and La Raza.  There is a high need for Adult Education.  He talked about the need for basic computer literacy which is almost a language of its own.  Many jobs now require applying online, for example.  He talked about older, laid off works and gave the example of Latinos over 50 who need new job and literacy skills.  We need to integrate job remediation, skills, and job vocabulary.

He wanted to make sure all knew that Pell Grants are now for only those people with GED and High School diplomas.

5. Meeting Community Needs - Trends in Adult Education Delivery

Wow.  You need to watch Dr. Bill Scroggins of Mt. San Antonio in College.  He made many important points in a clear and direct way.  You can watch him in action here at about 1 hour and 10 minutes in.  In response to what Mr. Steenhausen sound about Community Colleges being chaotic in their delivery and fees, he said "if it appears chaotic it's because it's in response to diversity of need."  He talked about meeting the bottom line and said that when there are more jobs, fewer people go to school.  Community Colleges have to deal with a lot of changing variables. We have to be flexible, he said, to meet changing needs and make good local decisions that meet the bottom line. 

Comment Section:

The Community Needs section was rich with nuance and information, and I highly recommend you watch the whole thing.

During this section, several legislators made comments or asked questions:

Assembly Member Quirk-Silva said she had taught for 27 years and noted that one size doesn't fit all.  She expressed concerns about narrowing the mission. If we cut these other programs completely, she said, in the future we may think maybe we cut too far.  She cautioned us to make sure we tread carefully and understand that there is place for these models.

Assembly Member Medina taught Adult Ed ESL and also K12.   His fear is that K12 Adult Education may be losing the types of classes that we're talking about... that that many students feel more comfortable coming to a more informal setting.

Assembly Member Chavez asked that, given all the changes happening in education - LCFF, Common Core, Adult Ed restructuring - were providers being asked to do too much?  Dr. Bill Scroggins responded it wasn't so much too much as that there were a lot of meetings and a lot of overlap.  Perhaps things could be more in alignment.  Assembly Member Chavez talked about the efficacy of focusing on one objective at a time.

6.  Public Comment

This is a must watch section.  It starts at 2 hours in.  Click here to watch the video.

Some highlights:

Jeff Freitas, Secretary-Treasurer of CFT - California Federation of Teachers - brought up the issue of teacher inclusion, or lack thereof, in the planning process.

Irma Beserra Nunez spoke about the value and need for Older Adults programs.  These are outside the new "6 core programs" outlined in the LAO report and funded through the Regional Consortia program.  She talked about the reality of multi-cultural, multi-generational families and how Older Adults programs enabled families to survive and thrive economically and otherwise.

San Mateo Adult School ESL Students

Kristen Pursley of COSAS (Communities Organized to Save Adult Schools) and the Save Your Adult School Blog discussed the Ripple Effects of Adult Education as described in the LAO Report.   She praised the report and questioned its recommending narrowing the mission so as to eliminate the source of some of these positive ripple effects.  She talked about the nuts and bolts difficulties inherent in planning for and running the new Regional Consortia.  After cuts and closures, there are of issues of trust which must be addressed.

Mel Martynn, of Berkeley Adult School and CFT's Adult Education Commission brought up very good points about democracy.  Where, in these decision making bodies, are the rules about what determines a quorum, who votes, and who counts the vote.  Where is the democracy in the new Regional Consortia system?

George Porter, of City of Berkeley Commission on Aging and Older Adults Instructor at Berkeley Adult School, suggested having a separate process, similar to the consortia planning process, to plan for programs such as Older Adults and Parent Education which support thriving communities.  He presented a plan for this to the Committees and they accepted it. 

Ken Ryan, of West Contra Costa Adult School and COSAS, said if fees are charged for classes, there should be state funded fee waivers.

Antonio Medrano, former WCC School Board member, and chapter chair of Berkeley/North East Bay ACLU strongly opposed charging any fees for Adult Education classes.  He also brought up the issue of identification numbers and said that some Community Colleges ask for social security numbers to use as ID numbers. 

Sylvia of CCSF, City College of San Francisco, said that San Francisco has a four million dollar meal program for seniors which requires that seniors take nutritional classes, class that are currently part of CCSF's Older Adults program.  If these classes are eliminated through narrowing of the mission, seniors will not be eligible for those meals.

Comment Section:

Those are just a few highlights.  To see them all, watch the video.

There is no substitute for information from the community and I urge lawmakers, policy makers, and those in leadership positions in the Regional Consortia planning process not only to look to the community for information, ideas, and wisdom, but to make a place for it within the planning structure.

Just as public comment is structurally included in legislative hearings, public comment needs to be structurally included in planning and policy making.

With the technology available today, this is far easier than in the past.  There are many ways to gather information.  Each way has its strengths and weaknesses.

The important thing is to acknowledge that to serve the people, one must include the people and then make effort to do so through both structure and practice.

The result will not be perfect... but will be a more perfect union...  the same more perfect union the makers of our nation strove to create in order to nurture and protect our people.

Rather than backing into change, moving in new directions by changing funding structures but without officially changing the actual mission of the program, I suggest we follow the Look Three Ways Rule and consider where we want to go, where we've come from, and where we want to go, before doing as the makers of our nation did, and creating, through democractic process,  a constitution for Adult Education now and into the future, which depends on the inclusion of all concerned. 

Whatever we as a people decide, we will have made the decision about direction consciously and together.  We can move into the future knowing all voices will and must be heard as we proceed together down that path.

This Oversight Hearing on Adult Education was an excellent opportunity to do just that and I thank Senator Liu for giving us that opportunity. 

Messy, complex, imperfect, and challenging as democracy is, it is best way we know to access the full strength, power, and beauty of humanity.

I leave you with the preamble to the Constitution, in the hope it may inspire us to create something similar for Adult Education:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Just in case we forget...


No comments:

Post a Comment