Monday, October 26, 2015

Adult Education Task Force: Working Together for Common Good Purpose

Working together for common good purpose is powerful and brings results. 

To that end, John Mears, long time activist for Adult Education and Adult Schools, has helped to pull together the Adult Education Task Force.  John teaches at West Valley Occupational Center, a division of Adult and Career Ed in Los Angeles.  He is a long time and very active UTLA member, started the No Lawmaker Left Behind Campaign, and was an integral member of the Alliance for California Adult Schools.

Advocates for Adult Education meeting with Assembly Member Patty Lopez
John Mears is sleeves-rolled-up at the desk of Assembly Member Lopez

Here, in his own words, is a description of the Adult Education Task Force:
The Adult Education Task Force (AETF) was formed when adult-ed activists in the San Fernando Valley concerned about the lack of funding for our programs met with Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (39th Dist.), who used to work at the North Valley Occupational Center.  Now, as an elected member of the California State Assembly, Ms. Lopez is vocally supportive of our programs.  In fact, she ran for office in part because of frustration that her predecessor -- former Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra -- did not seem supportive of our programs when we were threatened with elimination in 2012.  

Hit the link to learn more.

Here's a brief timeline:
August 20 & 21:  AETF videotaped long lines of adult students hoping to register for ESL classes at West Valley Occupational Center, and collected letters from students, addressed to Patty Lopez, asking for help in restoring our program to a level that fully serves our communities.  I turned the video into a DVD for advocacy purposes (available upon request).
August 26:  LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines wrote a letter to the Chancellor of the L.A. Community College District (LACCD), Dr. Francisco Rodriguez, expressing concern about delays in allocations from the L.A. Regional Adult Education Consortium (LARAEC).
September 4:  AETF worked with Patty Lopez's office to write a letter and send a package of supporting material (student letters and a DVD) to LACCD Chancellor Rodriguez, in support of Superintendent Cortines's Aug. 26 letter, emphasizing the urgency for LARAEC to decide on the allocation of Adult Education Block Grant funds to address the unmet needs in our communities. (The unmet needs were shown by the long lines of students in the DVD:  550 students waiting to be one of 60 students that could be tested each day.)
Sept. 14, I accompanied two of Patty Lopez's district office staff members on a trip to Sacramento to visit with Ms. Lopez and CDE representatives for adult education: Chris Nelson and Alejandro Espinoza.  There, we were told unequivocally that adult education is underfunded.  At that meeting, Patty Lopez told the CDE people that she would like to have a conversation with Gov. Brown.  AETF decided to focus on lobbying Gov. Brown for greater funding.
Oct. 23, I attended a LARAEC meeting, where I made a public comment on behalf of the Adult Education Task Force about the unmet needs in LAUSD.  The LARAEC meeting had two "action items": 
  1. "Governance structure" (i.e. Establish a governance structure for LARAEC to allocate state funds from the Adult Education Block Grant or "AEBG")
  2. "Funding distribution" (i.e. Decide how to distribute the approximately $28 million LARAEC was receiving for its AEBG.)

Representing Burbank USD, Emilio Urioste moved that the governance structure for LARAEC be "one vote per district."  Before there was any discussion, L.A. Trade Tech President Larry Frank (representing LACCD) immediately said, "I'd like to make a second motion."  He moved that the governance structure be "consensus."  He said, "Our biggest problem is the legislation, which doesn't really tell us how to work together."  Of course, he was talking about AB 86 and AB 104.  "There are unanswered questions in the legislation," he said, suggesting we need new legislation.  In the following discussion, it came out that sixty-five consortia in California still don't have a formal governance structure.  There was back-and-forth about one vote per district vs. consensus, but finally a vote was called, and it was four to one (five members present) in favor of one vote per district.  Larry Frank voted "No."

On to action item #2.  Different districts offered their apportionment distribution proposals, but Larry Frank said, "My understanding is that what we agree today is not an agreement of the consortium."  Five different plans were presented and discussed -- one for each consortium member -- with amendments and votes, but with each vote, Larry Frank said, "We do not have a governance structure that would allow me to participate." 

Finally Culver City USD's proposal was passed by three to one, with Larry Frank again repeating the above statement.  The meeting closed without a clear indication whether Larry Frank's protests had legal/procedural weight, i.e. whether they actually prevented the vote from having validity and allowing disbursement to proceed.

It became clear to me at that meeting that we need legislative clarity on the governance structure for regional adult education consortia in California, so I came home and wrote the first draft of a bill to establish clear governance structures for all consortia.  The second draft of that proposed bill is attached.

On Wed., Oct. 28 there will be an AETF meeting at North Valley Occupational Center, where Patty Lopez used to work. The meeting will be recorded on video by the State Assembly's AV department, to show other assembly members what we're doing.

Click here to "like" the Adult Education Task Force Facebook page.

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