Friday, April 17, 2015

People Are The Wind; Politicians Are The Sail: Growing Grassroots and Legislative Advocacy for Parent Education and Older Adults Programs

Lick your finger and stick it in the air.

Feel that?

The wind is shifting.

Hit the link to learn more and go here for the short version.

The Back Story

A year or two ago, many people - in and out of the Legislature - felt that Parent Education and Older Adults Adult Education programs were valuable but couldn't be saved.  We were coming out of a great scourge.  Between 70 and 100 Adult Schools had been closed (statistics vary).  All Adult Schools had shrunk in size and scope.   People were focused on survival. 

At that time, many felt it was best to "go with the program" and the program was that Governor Brown and many in the Legislature wanted to narrow the focus of Adult Education and limit the funding to five programs.   A number of legislators felt differently and spoke up publically at various hearings - but they did not win out.

Politics is a big, slow, messy process that is, ultimately, by, for, and about people  --  who tend to be pretty messy and complicated, at least the ones I know, including myself.  We, the people, have a lot of power whether or not we choose to consciously use it - and often, we don't use it consciously.  When we do... we usually do so in slow and messy ways.  Through it all, we are always, in some way, projecting through our actions, how we see the world and what we want.

What do we, the people, see?  What do we, the people, say?  Smart, successful politicians listen. 

Wheels turn slowly and are complicated by many things but turn they do.  People compete for policy - policy being how we see the world and what we think will make it better.  How we see things and what we say and do about it determines where we go and how fast we get there.

While things were hard and people were scared, they turned as they often do at such times - toward "austerity."  That's the word people currently use to describe a certain way of looking at things which basically boils down we should be really scared because we're running out of everything.  It's kind of funny, really, if you think about it.  The 8th largest economy in the world, the one that supplies much of the food for the United States of America, busy lecturing everyone on our lack of money and resources.  At the same time, we keep making more and more things, buying more and more things, and generally running through a lot of our resources.  (See:  Climate Change.) 

Austerity thinking is not the same as Depression Era thinking.  During the Depression, people didn't waste things.  They used and re-used and saved and did everything they could to be thrifty and frugal - while they voted into policy programs like Social Security.  Individuals focused on not wasting their individual resources while the group focused on spending money in a way that would benefit the group as a whole.  That's a thumbnail but I think it fits.  In Austerity thinking, you tighten your belt - or at least the government does.  Meanwhile, many people keep buying things because somehow buying things is the answer - maybe because somehow we've been conditioned to think so.  But while you buy things, you are very worried about everything running out.  Even as the government cannot pay for things - like education - the individual is encouraged to shop and buy things and the group as a whole is focused on helping some individuals make money based on the idea that the success of a few is 1) deserved and 2) will trickle down to everyone else. 

Notably, during our recent Austerity Adventure (post-Financial Meltdown), there was not actually less money.  Money didn't "go away."  It just changed hands. 

Note:  Prop 30 - Governor Brown's special sales tax that funds more and better education for everyone - sort of switches up on that - if indeed, the money from Prop 30 goes to help everyone.  Things get complicated when you think that many voted for Prop 30 but due to shifts in policy, not everyone will benefit from it.)

Of course, there are limits to things - especially things like time and natural resources -  and in fact, it is good to think deeply and wisely about all choices about all resources, including money and especially natural resources.  The trick is understanding exactly how much of something there is - be that money, time, or water -  where it comes from, how much is left, will there be more in the future - and the wisest way to spend it.   The wisest way to spend something is generally the way that will eventually increase the very thing you are spending now.  (Such thinking works pretty well on anything you apply it to - love, money, time, health, you name it, thinking about how to spend it so there's so more of it works pretty darn well!)

During the Austerity Period, AB86 passed and went into law.  It limits state funding for Adult Education through the new Regional Consortia system to these five programs only:

  • Elementary and secondary basic skills, including classes required for a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate
  • Classes and courses for immigrants eligible for education services in citizenship and English as a second language and workforce preparation classes in basic skills
  • Education programs for adults with disabilities
  • Short-term career technical education programs with high employment potential
  • Programs for apprentices

  • As of July 2015, the state will fund only those five Adult Education programs through the new Adult Education Regional Consortia Block Grant funding system (which is how Adult Schools will get their money).  Adult Schools which want to continue any other programs will need to rely on other sources of funding, including fees.  Most surviving Older Adults programs at Adult Schools charge fees now. 

    The situation is different at Community Colleges

    City College of San Francisco, for example, which is the provider of Adult Education in San Francisco, and the main player in the San Francisco Regional Consortium, provides free non-credit Older Adults and Parent Education classes.  These programs are funded through Apportionment money. 

    "Apportionment money" is money from the State of California for Community Colleges.  Your tax dollars.  Your Prop 30 sales tax on that really valuable item at Big Lots (of course, I shop there.  That's why I know about this stuff!)  The money you just mailed in on April 15th.

    Access Depends on Where You Live

    The fact that Community Colleges are funded by apportionment and Community Colleges are also members of Adult Ed Regional Consortia complicates things and creates inequity.  If someone lives close to a Community College, they may be able to access Older Adults or Parent Education.  These non-credit Older Adults and Parent Ed classes are funded by State dollars coming in through the apportionment stream.  If they don't live close to such a Community College, they do not have access to these free, state-funded Adult Education classes.

    Through AB86, the Legislature limited state-funded access to Older Adults and Parent Education to only those Community Colleges which choose to provide them.  Older Adults and Parent Education are considered Adult Education - yet they are funded by the State only through Community Colleges

    Both Older Adults and Parent Education are still listed by the State as Adult Education programs.  You can see the full list of 10 such programs the California Department of Education Adult Education Program Overview page which is "under review."  I called to CDE to ask why and they said it is just standard web page updating procedure and the page will be up again soon.

    Overview of Current Policy

    What a mess, eh?  It's so messy, I worry I haven't explained it clearly here or that somehow, I'm confused or confusing things.  So let's review:

    *  Older Adults and Parent Education are listed on the CDE Adult Ed page as Adult Ed programs.
    AB86 limits state funding for Regional Consortia Adult Education to only 5 programs
    *  Adult Schools receive money only through this new Regional Consortia system
    *  Community Colleges receive apportionment money to provide their classes (credit or non-credit)
    *  Some Community College are part of the new Regional Consortia system for Adult Education
    *  Yes, the phrase "double-dipping" comes to mind.  Things are messy and confusing.
    *  Bottom line, Adult Schools only have State money for 5 programs
    *  If they want to offer anything else, Adult Schools have to charge fees or find $ somewhere else
    *  Community Colleges can offer free Older Adults and Parent Ed classes through Apportionment $
    *  A person's ability to access Older Adults and Parent Ed classes depends on where they live
    *  Yes, the phrase "civil rights issue" comes to mind.  Where a person lives often connects to $.

    In summation

    * Basically, the Legislature created conflicting messages and policy.
    * It's up to us, the people, to call them on this, decide what we want, speak up, and get a better deal.

    People are the wind.  Politicians are the sail.

    Now, as often happens with human beings and human culture and Mother Nature... things are changing.

    People are waking up to the fact that the few surviving Parent Education and Older Adults programs will lose state funding as of July and these programs are valuable and do a great service to the community.  The fact that Adult Schools are closing these programs (or actual Adult Schools are closing in the case of Acalanes Adult School) in preparation for the end of State funding for these programs is nudging this wake-up process along.

    Meanwhile, as also always happens, some folks never stopped seeing the value in these programs and advocating for them. 

    And people did what they always do when they something good is under threat:   They organized.

    And Legislators responded.

    New Assembly Member (and former Adult School student) Patty Lopez in fact wrote a bill that would reinstate State funding for Parent Education and Family Literacy.  It has passed through its first committee and is headed next to Higher Education.  Read about the bill here.

    Assembly Member Lopez is also supporting the continuation of Older Adults programs in Los Angeles, where they must be funded by the District General Fund since the State will soon no longer fund them.  She sent a representative to a recent Board meeting to express her support.

    Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon also see as the value in Older Adults Adult Education programs and has given support to the California Coalition to Save Older Adults Adult Education founded by Commissioner Irma Beserra Nunez.

    And Carlos Alcala of the California Chicano Latino Caucus came out swinging for both Older Adults and Parent Education when he spoke at the Assembly Budget Subcommittee #2 Hearing on Adult Education on March 24th.  You can see a video of the hearing here.  You can hear his comment at 1:22 in to the hearing.

    And FYI, if you haven't noticed, members of the California Chicano Latino Caucus as well as others in the Legislature, including Toni Atkins, Speaker of the Assembly, have been busy lately  creating policy addressing the needs of immigrants.  And yes, immigrants are family members.  Immigrants are parents and grandparents.  Immigrants get pregnant and get old - just like everyone else.  That's something we all have in common, us human beings.  We're born.  We're part of kinship systems.  We create more human beings - usually the old-fashioned way.  If we're lucky and eat our vegetables, we get old.  Then we die.  And our kinship system remembers and learns from what we did, good or bad.  That's why Governor Brown has his great-grandfather's rock in his office.  To remember the value and power of legacy.  (What will his be?)

    CFT has long supported the broad mission -  though their lobbying for this cause has been hampered by the large number of challenges facing their members, including the attacks on CCSF.   You can see CFT Secretary Treasurer Jeff Freitas speaking about this issue here at 2:03:25 into the video.

    At this point, maybe it would be helpful if I simply provided a list of what's happening in this world of shifting winds and sails.  So here it is:

    1.  "Too Old To Learn" - website focused on saving Older Adults programs in Los Angeles.  Many resources, testimonials and links to a petition are on the site.

    2.   Continue to Fund Programs for Older Adults Classes - petition addressed to Los Angeles Board of Education.  Petition is focused on Older Adults classes in Los Angeles only.

    3.  AB1112 - Assembly Member Patty Lopez' bill to reinstate State funding for Parent Education and Family Literacy.

    4.  "Please Support AB1112 to Save Parent Ed and Family Literacy Programs in California" - petition addressed to the State House (Senate and Assembly) in support of the Lopez bill.

    5.  LA Family Literacy - website focused on saving Parent Ed programs in Los Angeles.  Excellent info and testimonials on the site.

    6.  CFT - California Federation of Teachers Union.  Secretary Treasurer Jeff Freitas' testimony at the January 29th 2015 Oversight Hearing on Adult Ed can be viewed here.  (2:03:25).   The Adult Education issue paper can be read here.

    7. Alliance for California Adult Schools - A4CAS.  On the Resources page, scroll down to "Mission - Broad or Narrow" for many pertinent links and articles.

    8.  George Porter's Petition for the Broad Mission.  George Porter is an Older Adults instructor at Berkeley Adult School, member of the Berkeley Commission on Aging, and a grassroots advocate for Adult Education and the broad mission.

    9.  Carlos Alcala of the California Chicano Latino Caucus speaking at the Assembly Budget Subcommittee #2 on Hearing on Adult Education.  Video here.  He speaks at 1.22 into the hearing.

    10.  Commissioner Irma Beserra Nunez speaking at the same hearing.  1.21 into the hearing.

    If you have trouble with the link to the hearing, go to the Cal Channel website and look up the March 24th Assembly Budget Subcommittee #2  hearing on Adult Education.  . 

    11.  Save Your Adult School blog.  Numerous excellent posts on the topic including this one and this one.  The Save Your Adult School blog holds the best collection of information on why these programs are valuable.

    12.  Restore Protected Funding for K-12 Adult Ed - petition.  Petition focuses on safe funding for Adult Schools but many of the comments focus on Parent Ed and Older Adults.  Recently, there have been many comments from Chula Vista residents as that area is facing the loss of its Parent Education program.  There are also many comments from Alcalanes Adult School students facing the loss of their programs.  Here are some comments pulled from the petition:

    Lorena Gonzalez from San Diego, CA signed this petition on Apr 16, 2015.

    My son and I have been enrolled in parent ed classes since he was 18 months old. As a parent with an only child and no immediate family or friends with small children, Mrs. Lori Swem's class was the best thing that I encountered. The lessons that she taught me as a clueless first time parent and my son are/were invaluable. My son was able to consistent social interaction, learn social skills, enhance his development and is now I feel prepared for kindergarten, thanks to Mrs. Lori and his current parent Ed Teacher. As for my self I have not only learned so much about positive parenting, but have been able to form bonds and friendships with the other mothers in the class. We were/are able to support each other and share the common challenges and acheviements of our children. Taking this program away would be the worst thing that can happen. You are taking away the opportunity for other parents/future parents to experience these types of programs. The current expectations for entrance to kindergarten is far more advance from when I was a child and I feel that programs like parent/child ed. are the foundation for early childhood education, that will set children up for success. I also feel as a parent/student, attending these classes with our children encourages and motivates us as parents to be more involved in our children's education. Please continue to support and keep Parent Ed. going. The community depends on it.

    ana from san diego, CA signed this petition on Apr 16, 2015.

    Please dont take away this great programs.Thr development may not be measured on a test but it shows throughout the kids growing.The milestones our children have can not be measured with a simple test.But its the time and lessons that this classes offer us Parents to bring up well rounded future students of the system and eventually our society.

    Lorena from Chula vista, CA signed this petition on Apr 16, 2015.

    I'm So thankful with the parenting classes (mommy and toddler class). I have learned how to be a good mom with positive discipline, and also a good teacher for my two kids with the outstanding instruction of Mrs. Lori. Today, I'm so sad these classes are about to end letting so many parents without the opportunities these classes offer. I suggest you consider your decision and keep offer the enough funds for this priceless education for the children, who are the future of the nation. Thank you.

    eunice palacios from 91914, CA signed this petition on Apr 15, 2015.

    This class made a difference in the way I parent my children. The community that I created in that class is something that could never happened outside of the class context. There is no other program like this in the City. This program helped my child to be exposed to English and helped her with social skills. Please maintain this program

    2931. Patricia Purvis-Thielman from Walnut Creek, CA signed this petition on Apr 14, 2015.

    Governor Brown I find your lack of support for life long education programs to be outright discrimination against older adults. I am not only disappointed but appalled at your cavalier approach to Adult Education. As one of the many WORKING and VOTING California Baby Boomers, believe me when I say, I will never vote for any candidate who is in support of discriminatory practices. Please remedy this situation NOW!

    Caroline Ballarino from chula Vista, CA signed this petition on Apr 11, 2015.

    parent Ed has taught me so much and improved my role as a parent to my 3 children. It was my main form of support emotionally as well. You are making a huge mistake in letting this program go.

    Erica from chula vista, CA signed this petition on Apr 11, 2015.

    This education program has taught me so much. I have taken classes for both my children and feel I am a better parent because of it. There are many books about how to take care of a child but hardly any on how to actually interact and play with your child. I have learned how to interact with my children and understand them because of these classes. I feel very blessed to have been able to learn from parent education classes. Our future is in our children and if we aren't educated on how to interact with them what kind of future are we going to have.

    Elliot Barenbaum from Walnut Creek, CA signed this petition on Apr 3, 2015.

    I am writing today to urge you to support designated funding for Older Adult/Consumer Education/Health and Fitness programs in the 2015-2016 budget. As a student at the Acalanes Adult Education in Walnut Creek, these classes have been important to me and others both mentally and physically. Many of the classes keep us informed and involved in both global, national, state and local issues. They also provide outlets for creative expression in all areas of the arts. Older adults can better prepare themselves financially and economically through the consumer education classes that have been offered. The sports and recreational programs provide tremendous health benefits which can decrease state healthcare costs. Everyone truly benefits, the individual(s) and their families. Please act to designate funding to help maintain these critical programs. Many voters believed that Proposition 30 would continue to fund adult programs.

    neil c riley from walnut creek, CA signed this petition on Mar 24, 2015.

    I signed prop. 30 expecting to have adult ed. options. Great decisions to be cancelled and forein language courses? Perhaps we should all go back to the dark ages. How pathetic with 63% of our budget going to ed. your office can't support those of us who put 50 years into funding schools and our economy and now are told to fend with 18 yr. olds for continuing ed. Tragic. My vote will change for sure over this.

    2793. Nancy E. Montoya from Orinda, CA signed this petition on Mar 23, 2015.

    Why spend our tax dollars to fix up older schools if you're going to cancel Adult Education classes for those same seniors who've paid those taxes for 50+ years? SHAME ON YOU! We may be old but we're definitely not stupid.

    Where we're going

    So... yes... where are we going?   As a state?  As a people?  As a species?


    Full disclosure:  I am member of CFT, CCAE, contribute to the A4CAS website, and support the reinstatement of state funding for Older Adults and Parent Education Adult Education classes.  Also Financial Literacy.  Maybe Governor Brown can teach Financial Lit classes when he finishes his term as Governor.  Also, all the opinions expressed in this post (and this one, too) are mine.  - Cynthia Eagleton.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment