Sunday, September 13, 2015

What Happened At Acalanes?

What happens when funding is threatened, reduced,
removed, and destabilized for programs paid by the
public and designed to serve it?

Click on the "read more" link to find out.

That's what we can learn from what happened to
Adult Schools and Adult Education these last six years,
and stretching back further than that, from the last
one hundred and fifty.

Acalanes, as did so many Adult Schools since funding
was flexed by Governor Schwarzenegger in 2009,
went through tremendous turmoil and at one point,
was slated for closure.  

The LaMorinda Weekly story, "Adult Students Wanted at Del Valle,"
provided in full below, tells one version of the story.

George Porter, in his Perspective piece on Acalanes' Older Adult Program,
tells another.

Putting those two pieces together, the question
comes to mind, "Which adults are wanted at Del Valle -
and why?"

Adult Schools and Adult Education have gone through
many changes in the past 150 years, as we can learn
from Kristen Pursley's two powerpoints:

A History of Adult Education in California:  We've Been Here Before

* The Battle for Adult Education in California: Historical Context

Each time funding was destabilized, this paid for by
the public institution of education for the public
has changed.  Why?  To what end?  The answers to
those questions tell the real story, however it's described
in the news.

LaMorinda Weekly

by Cathy Tyson
September 9th, 2015

     Despite funding concerns this past spring, Acalanes Adult
Education at the Del Valle campus near Rossmoor is open
and administrators want to encourage enrollment to help
keep the program healthy; fall classes are starting soon.

Since the adoption of Assembly Bill 86, a bill to redesign
the statewide adult education system to speed up academic
 and career success, funding for adult education has changed
dramatically. Now revenue comes in the form of block grants
 that are distributed to regional educational consortia to
develop joint plans for serving basic adult education
students. The goal is to focus on adult students who have
low levels of literacy, need to learn English as a second
language, and high school dropouts who want to earn a
diploma, along with career education to help transition
those students to post-secondary education and the labor

While the overhaul is not a bad thing, it clearly leaves
 behind adults who simply want to be lifelong learners and
pursue education for the joy of it and for some mental exercise.

"Bottom line, we want to meet the needs of our student
population," said new director of the Del Valle Education
Center, Steven France. Unfortunately without support
from the state going forward, classes are now entirely
paid for by student fees - which translates to a roughly
25 percent increase in the cost of each class. France says
that works out to about $7 more per class hour - less than
the cost of a movie.

The school continues to offer a range of fall classes,
everything from art to language to money management.
Administrators are encouraging students to sign up,
because unlike in past years, a minimum of 15 students
are required to enroll in each class in order for the program
to be sustainable. Less than that threshold means either the
hours of instruction will decrease, cost per student will
 increase, or the class will be canceled. Robust class
enrollment will allow the program to grow and expand
class offerings.

New Del Valle Education Center director Steve France
and office staff,
Jenny Knapp, Lissa Heptig and Carolyn Madderra
    Photo C. Tyson

This past spring, the future of the program was in doubt.
 A number of full-time staffers have been laid off, including
former director Frank Acojido, in response to the sea change
 in state funding. France didn't have to go far to fill the
position; he was the former director of the Acalanes
Center for Independent Study, which is also on the
Del Valle campus.

          In order to fund its popular adult enrichment classes,
administrators at Del Valle had to take a hard look at what
it really costs to run its programs. Students were surveyed
to see if they would support a 25 percent increase in class
fees to cover overhead, insurance, utility costs and more,
which they did. Seniors get a 10 percent discount, and the
 costs are still fairly reasonable. For example the
one-evening-only class, "Savvy Social Security Planning
for Couples," is $25, and 10 "Italian 1A" classes cost $130,
or $117 for seniors. It's anticipated that pricing classes to
represent the actual cost of delivering the service should
be a sustainable model going forward, barring any big

There is also a push to look at additional options to
help utilize the recently renovated campus, which is only
open during the day and just two evenings per week as
a way to maximize usage and cut back on expenses.
There continues to be strong community support as
well as support from the Acalanes Union High School
District to keep the facility open.

The vast majority of students at this facility live nearby,
 in Rossmoor or in Lamorinda, and are interested in
enrichment classes. The best way to show support is to
sign up for a class or two and learn something new, France says.
Registration for these and many other classes is available
online at or by phone or
in person at the Acalanes Adult Education office at
1963 Tice Valley Blvd. in Walnut Creek. Some classes
 start the week of Sept. 14, others later this fall; check the
class schedule for all the details.

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