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...

to this place where we have a new system for delivering Adult Education - the Regional Consortia system which involves both K12 District Adult Schools and Community Colleges - but haven't decided how to fund that system....  and with no security for the K12 Adult Schools...  even though they have done of the lion's share of delivering Adult Education since 1868.

It is important that we understand why K12 Adult Schools need their own secure dedicated funding within the new Regional Consortia system.

It is important not only for the basic reason that if you have two groups mandated to do something - in this case, deliver Adult Education - but you fund only one of them or put only one of them in charge of the money, you can pretty much guarantee trouble...

but also because human beings are not only wonderful, insightful, generous, etc.

they are also greedy, manipulative, intentionally unfair, etc.

and even just... well meaning but with blind spots. 

Me, too.  That's just how we are.

That's why, when you are creating a structure for human beings - like a government - you have to build in checks and balances.  You have to factor in the best people can do and the worst.  You try to create something that brings out the best, puts a check on the worst, and if the worst does happen, has a way to deal with it.

You definitely don't do things like ask two groups to do something but only give one of them the funds to do it and/or put only one of them in charge.

The following resolution is old.  It's from 2011.  But I think it's very important that we look at it because it reveals something about how we've gotten here... and... I think it falls in the category of "humans not being their best selves."  It's an example of how humans can manipulate information, presenting it in a way that benefits them but not the larger community.

That's my intro and now here we go:

Before the December 2012 Legislative Analyst Report, "Restructuring California's Adult Education System," and a few months after the June 2011 Little Hoover Report on Adult Education, and some years after Wall Street decisions caused international economic chaos in 2008 and Schwartzenegger decided to respond to said chaos by "flexing" Adult School money and making it available to K12 Districts so they could survive....

While we were in the midst of dealing with chaos in our public education system... cuts to all branches and cost increases for colleges and universities... 

K12 Adult Schools K12 Districts were presented as hostile to Adult Education in a resolution by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges....  

and it was recommended - by the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges - that Adult Ed be put in the Community College system.    (The resolution is in full below and I will go through it, point by point.)

Wow - Community Colleges saying that K12 Districts are basically bad places for Adult Ed to be and all Adult Ed should be put inside the Community College system.  Wow.  Why?

Before we get into that, you might want to know: What's the Academic Senate for California Community College?

The Community College Academic Senate is basically the voice of Community College faculty for statewide policy.  It's sort of like a really big student council but teachers and for the whole state.  And just for Community Colleges. 

(By the way, K12 Adult School teachers don't have one of these.  Maybe it would have been helpful if we had. Something to think about.)

And then, you might want to know:  What's a resolution?

It's a recommendation.  That's basically it.  A suggestion.  It's not a law.  It's not a bill that could become a law.  It's a formal suggestion that people have thought about and talked about and voted on as their official position on something.

Okay, now we can get into it.  Here's the 2011 resolution with my comments in italics:

Assign Responsibility for Adult Education to California Community Colleges

Fall 2011
Resolution Number: 06.03
Contact: Esther Matthew
Assigned to : President
Topic:  State and Legislative Issues
Status: Assigned
Whereas, The responsibility for adult education in California is inconsistently applied throughout the state, in some cases being assumed by the K-12 system and in others by community colleges;

(Adult Education has been delivered by K12 Adult School since 1868.  By Community Colleges, for much less.  "We've been here before," a powerpoint history of Adult Education in California, is a good thing to review at this point.)

Whereas, The K-12 system has shifted millions of dollars in adult education funds to support other K-12 categorical programs that had experienced deep funding cuts, leading to a transfer of more than $400 million out of adult education programs;

(I'm not sure what they're talking about here.  Most of the categoricals were flexed.  A few were not.  I will do my homework and find out which weren't.  The Adult Ed money that was flexed and used by districts did not so much go to "support other categoricals" as simply go to keep K12 Districts going.  All public education was under great stress.  Adult Ed money might have gone to pay a teacher's salary or to buy books or to clean the cafeteria or to pay for school buses.  Basically, it just kept public K12 schools going.  A sad thing, yes.  Sad that we that the whole financial collapse happened in the first place.  Sad that public education has been struggling since Prop 13 and was finally brought to its knees by the financial collapse.  But a bad thing that K12 schools survived?  No.  And if Adult Ed money had gone to prop up Community Colleges, I doubt the Academic Senate would have thought this was bad.  But it didn't help Community Colleges.  It helped K12 Schools.)

Whereas, The California Community Colleges Task Force on Student Success (established in response to Senate Bill 1143, Liu, 2010) draft recommendations (as of September 30, 2011) indicate that the State of California should develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing basic skills instruction, including providing for adult education; and

(Many people who work in Community Colleges are not happy with all the Task Force recommendations as you will see in this video:

I support the people in this video, by the way.  I support their cause.  I'm using the video to demonstrate a point:  When it comes to these official recommendation things, people often pull out the parts they like and present them in isolation. 

When it works to their advantage, great, mention it.  When it doesn't, protest the part you don't like separately.   But don't present things in context.  Don't look at and remind people of the whole. 

Again, I have nothing against the folks in this video.  And they aren't the Academic Senate.  I'm just pointing out that the Task Force Recommendations are complicated and folks in Community Colleges - teachers, admin, students - feel all kinds of ways about the various recommendations. 

I understand.  Sometimes I like parts of something and don't like other parts.  But if so, I need to be honest and state that somewhere.  Otherwise, it's more or less "manipulating data" or in this case, recommendations.

The Task Force Recommendations are their own big thing.  They have had a huge impact.  They are another big piece of the puzzle of Public Education changes.  I am not going to try cover that piece here.)

Whereas, California community colleges are best suited to provide adult education throughout the state but cannot properly fulfill this function due to budgetary constraints;

Okay, basically my response to this is "Says who?"    I mean, really, who says that Community Colleges are best suited for delivering Adult Education?  

Okay, let's think about that for a minute.  What has been everyone's feeling on who thinks Adult Ed should be delivered by Community Colleges - they do it best....

Some community colleges thought so - not all of them.

The Governor thought so.  That's a biggie. He's not "the people" but he's their leader and he's a strong leader who is not afraid of using his veto power plus he writes the budget.

The LAO - Legislative Analyst Office - didn't think so. They recommended some changes - many of which I don't personally like. But they thought the two programs should continue on and they thought K12 Adult Schools should regain categorical status once the smoke of flex cleared.

A lot of students and teachers and admin at K12 Adult Schools didn't think so.

Some teachers and admin at K12 Adult Schools thought so because they didn't like their K12 Districts and how those districts were dealing with the economic downturn.  I'm just going to come right out and say that some people - not all! - in LA thought Adult Ed would be better off in Community Colleges... and now that all this stuff is coming out about the ipad wheelings and dealings... maybe what the real trouble was and always is:  K12 Districts which do things badly or have some corruption going on... create problems.  Same thing is true of Community Colleges.  Or Universities.  Or anything!  We are back to the truth that human beings are capable of both help and harm.  Which is why it is good to have structures that account for both and encourage the former and discourage the latter. Because let's face it:  crap happens.  And as a third generation public school teacher and as a human being, I will tell you:  Crap happens in schools.  And in business.  And in hospitals.  And in homes.  I mean, again... we are human beings!  We're not nice all the time!

But mostly... and I think I can be pretty safe in saying this because I have been working on all this for over 5 years now and over the course of that time, have talked to people around the state...  mostly the K12 Adult School students and teachers and admin and surrounding communities liked their K12 Adult Schools.  They just wanted them to have secure funding again.  The problem was not the schools.  The problem was the funding.  And the funding connects back to that huge economic mess and one could even argue, goes all the way back to Prop 13.  And that is why I don't like losing our broad mission.  Because I think it is important to see ourselves as a community.  And not think college and career readiness and money and business is the answer to every human problem.  Business actually creates some problems.  I mean, let's remember:  Wall Street is a business!  The people working there who made the decisions they made were very college and career ready!  Life is not just about making money!  Life is about the choices you make with the resources you have - including money, energy, people, intelligence, heart, etc.  We are a river that needs two banks - and only one of them has dollars in it.  Social emotional intelligence and health matters.  Strong, resilient communities matter.  They are part of what creates an economy that benefits the group and not just a very small portion of it.   Did I digress?  Yes and no.  This whole thing - this whole adventure - is about reshaping Adult Education, which is a structure.  And the only way you can build a good structure is to truly know what you are creating it for - to see the natural shape of something and then create a form which supports it in the healthiest and most beautiful way possible.  So really... all this reshaping Adult Education... and all public education... is about how we see ourselves. 

That's the truth and it's not said out loud real often.  But it's the truth.  We are arguing about who and what we are... a vision shaped by our own perceptions...  perceptions colored by our capacity and character...  Are we willing and able to see things we don't like?  Are we willing and able to see things that are painful to realize or address?  Are we willing and able to see solutions which might not be of great benefit to us personally or to ourselves, alone?  Are we willing and able to share what we see with others?  Publically? Are we willing to take the heat for speaking up when others fear to?   Are we willing to speak up for something which might be reviled?  Are we willing to advocate for people the larger culture ignores or denies or rejects?  Are we willing to put forth solutions which might be rejected?   All these questions - and of course, their answers - shape we're going as a people. 

Our personal decisions to see or not see... speak or not speak... shape our collective future.

Back to what Brown sees as a solution...  Brown didn't support Prop 13 and he didn't flex categoricals.  Previous administrations did both. He was left holding the hot potato.

And when given a hot potato, what do most people want to do with it?  Pass it on! 

It's hard to sit with a problem you did not create and try to tease out what caused the problem and then slowly and wisely think through what solutions might solve it.

I think "give Adult Ed to the Community Colleges" is a hot potato solution.  It sounds good.  But it doesn't really solve the problem.  It doesn't even just pass it on.  It actually makes things worse.  But...  again... human beings!  We don't always think things through.  (Me, too!)

Resolved, That the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges recommend that the Board of Governors urge the Legislature to assign responsibility for adult education to the California community colleges but only if sufficient funding to address this mission is provided.

Appendix A: California Community Colleges Task Force on Student Success

Lessons and questions:

1.  What weight did this have with people?  With Legislators?  With the Governor?  With various agencies and commissions and so forth?  It obviously did not have a lot of weight with the LAO because the LAO recommended the opposite.  The LAO also pushed for narrowing the mission... something mirrored in the Task Force recommendations for the Community College system also... the whole push for College and Career Readiness versus "community"... which mostly, CC folks are not happy about...  My takeaway:  The resolution probably had some weight.  They thought about things.  They came to a decision about what they wanted. They spoke up.  Speaking up is good.  But other people also thought about things and many said, "No.  We don't agree with you."

2.  Why the heck did they think they could say that Community Colleges are "best suited"?  Can you just say that something is best suited without real proof?  What did they base on that on?  It always boggles my mind how people can be so bold.  On the other hand, being bold has its benefits. In any case, I disagree with them.  As do many people.  Some of whom I disagree with on many other points!  I always love what CDE Superintendent Tom Torlakson said about the whole put Adult Ed inside Community Colleges thing:  "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!"   Thank you, Tom.

3.  Ideas are the beginning of everything.  Never think that your idea doesn't matter.  It matters.  A lot.  Really, we're all just operating on a lot of collective ideas - yes, that and gravity, and water and oxygen and rocks and plants and animals, I know.  There are "real" things.  But if we were all operating on just "real" things, then human culture would be the same across time and space.  And it isn't.  Because our ideas... what  we decide matters.. our perceptions... change.   A good idea... a timely idea...  well expressed... can change everything.   It just takes time - and energy.  But that's where everything begins.

4.  That's why I think it's so important to really think about these things.  Education is the hand that rocks the cultural cradle.  We're reshaping public education.  Okay.  But how?  Who is that baby in the cradle?  What sort of people do we want them to grow up to be?  Education - how much, how little, for whom, to what purpose - shapes our future.

What do we want?

When we look into the future, what do we see?

Who's doing the looking and what shapes how they see things?

What's the past of the people shaping the future?

A lot of "I's" shape a we.

Past, present, and future - who are they?  And what do they see?

At what point do we wake up and smell the coffee?


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this excellent post, and especially for pointing out that the Academic Senate’s assertion that the community colleges are “best suited” to provide adult education for the state is unfounded. Here are some reasons that it is not only unfounded, but wrong:

    1. The Legislative Analysts’ Report entitled “Restructuring California’s Adult Education System” found that outcomes for adult schools and community college non-credit programs are comparable. Community college non-credit programs don’t serve adult students any better than adult schools do.

    2. Community colleges are not as widely distributed as adult schools, and are typically not situated in rural or sparsely populated areas. There are only 112 community colleges in California, while there are 300 adult schools. Some adult schools are tiny and serve remote areas. If the community colleges were to take over all of adult education, they would bring no expertise or experience at all to serving populations in these areas.

    3. While much is made of overlap between adult school and community college services, it is only community colleges with substantial non-credit programs that have services that are similar to what adult schools provide. There are only 17 community colleges in the whole state that have significant non-credit programs. Since when is an institution with 17 programs in a better position to serve students than an institution with 300 programs? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

    Thanks for a great post.

    Kristen Pursley

    (Posted via Cynthia because of Google Blogger issues)