With the arrival of 2018, we find Sacramento filled with anticipation....the return of the Legislature from interim recess, the introduction of new bills, the last chance for 2-Year bills introduced and still in their house-of-origin from 2017 to remain active, and the widely anticipated release of the Governor's FY 18-19 Budget Plan. What also makes 2018 a year of anticipation is the fact that it is also a significant election year in California with statewide as well as legislative offices up for vote. Election years typically evoke a mixture of excitement and uncertainty and this year is no exception - will politics win over policy? Will candidates supporting causes near and dear to our hearts win their races? Who will be our next Governor? How will recent scandals affect the budget and legislative process this year, particularly in light of the loss of the Assembly's supermajority?
So many questions.....so few answers....
Nevertheless, CAEAA and CCAE are well positioned to move adult education forward into FY 18-19 and in doing so strengthen access to all. As in years past, we are putting forth credible, reasonable and workable priorities for consideration as part of the budget and legislative processes. The priorities are based on feedback from the field and include the following:
- Establishing a statewide indirect rate under the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG) capped at 5% or less
- Increasing AEBG funding and establishing an AEBG cost of living adjustment (COLA)
- Establishing performance-based funding for communities of need
- Building upon and incorporating immigrant integration metrics into AEBG
- Revising the term "Grant" in AEBG
- Establishing a common fee policy for Career Technical Education (CTE)
With the positive fiscal outlook released by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) this fall and the state's strong interest in protecting and providing pathways for immigrants, we feel strongly that this is our year and these priorities would make a positive difference in the ongoing AEBG work. Further, leadership from both CCAE and CAEAA participated in a number of meetings this fall with the Department of Finance (DOF), LAO, Legislature and other stakeholders to discuss these priorities and begin our push to have them incorporated into the budget in the FY 18-19 cycle. While nothing is as of yet a sure thing, these priorities were positively received and there was acknowledgement that they were indeed credible and reasonable. That said and as noted by the LAO and Legislature, the Governor's fiscal projections are often more conservative in January than what the LAO and Legislature might project. Further, the uncertain impacts associated with federal policy and budget changes are likely to lead the Administration to be even more cautious. Nevertheless, at this point the fiscal situation is looking positive for not only fully implementing the Governor's Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) plan, an Administration priority, but also for pushing forth some additional state priorities.
Likely of most interest to the field is our proposal to increase AEBG funding by $110 million and establish an ongoing COLA. While we acknowledge the proposed increase would not yet put adult education funding at the pre-recession levels, we feel strongly that this is a reasonable proposal that is based in concrete and defensible numbers that will provide room for growth, addressing communities of need as proposed by Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and help to address ongoing cost increases. Furthermore, the proposal is a strategic one that proposes a lower infusion of revenue into AEBG with the compromise being adoption of an ongoing COLA as well. The COLA component will not only help with year-over-year cost increases, but it is also intended as a signal to business officials further solidifying AEBG funding as a long-term funding system as committed to by DOF.
Another key priority is the incorporation of immigrant integration metrics into AEBG, building upon the data already reported and collected through CASAS.
As you well know, serving immigrant adults in need of English language skills has been at the core of the K12 adult education mission since its inception. They come to adult schools to develop literacy, and in doing so, gain cultural competency and literacy more broadly defined as health, financial, digital literacy, parenting and family literacy, and civic engagement, all also critical to successful transition to college and careers. Unfortunately, however, the AEBG statute does not explicitly provide for these types of immigrant integration metrics relative to demonstrating outcomes and accountability for student success. In this regard, we are growing concerned that immigrant students who may not yet have the skills to demonstrate outcomes on the current statutory spectrum that focuses solely on literacy and career progress will eventually be left behind as AEBG entities seek to focus on programming for those students for which clear outcomes and progress can be measured and for which funding may eventually be prioritized.
While some of our own have expressed concern about moving too fast in this space, it is important to note that many metrics are already defined and data related to those metrics are actually already collected in part through CASAS and TOPSpro Enterprise. The key is tying the data being reported to the outcomes associated specifically with immigrant integration outcomes. Over the coming weeks and months we will be providing more detailed information regarding these metrics and how they will utilize and build upon data already being reported and collected. In the meantime, I strongly encourage you to familiarize yourself with the work of the Alliance for Language Learners' Integration, Education and Success (ALLIES) - an alliance serving the two-county Silicon Valley region of San Mateo and Santa Clara counties - that has developed an Immigrant Integration Pathway offering an innovative way to identify and measure the critical factors for successful immigrant integration. CAEAA and CCAE's very own Board Member Dr. Bob Harper and others in the local AEBG consortia were instrumental in working with ALLIES on the development of this Pathway. Please see https://www.allies4innovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Allies_WhitePaper_ImmigrantIntegrationFramework-hr.pdf.
On the CTE front, we have more work to do. Many of you will recall SB 173 (Liu, 2014) called for recommendations to be offered regarding the establishment of a common fee policy and perhaps elimination of fees altogether. While we've attempted to provide some feedback on the issue in recent years, the issue is complicated and inevitably a common fee policy would lead to funding deficits for adult schools absent an infusion of revenue to backfill lost fee revenue. Further complicating the fee discussion is the issue of federal funds and how they could be impacted by a change in the fee policy for adult schools. In this regard, we've noted our commitment to continuing to work on the issue. To that end, CCAE and CAEAA will be meeting later this month in Sacramento to have an in-depth discussion with both boards in an attempt to come up with recommendations that are workable and take all of the issues in to account. Stay tuned....
In the meantime, we have our work cut out for us. While we are well positioned this year to make a good deal of headway on these issues, it will not come easy and without all of us doing our part on the grassroots (YOU!), advocacy (ALL OF US!), public relations and political fronts. In the coming weeks we will be providing you with talking points as well as sample letters, resolutions, etc. to use at the local level with your fellow K12 colleagues, Superintendents, School Board members, community based organizations, legislators, and more. This will absolutely need to be a full-court press to get us over the finish line. And in addition to our work together, CCAE this fall hired Kelli Reid and McNally Temple Associates, a Sacramento based public and media relations firm, to help us with getting our message out and building momentum. They've already produced and distributed a few pieces helping to pave the way and generate buzz regarding adult education and our priorities. We have a lot of big plans in store for the coming months....stay tuned...and please click on the hot links below.
In terms of next steps, the Governor will release his January Budget Plan next week (Wednesday, January 10th). Keep in mind, the budget summary that will be released is the tops-of-the-trees relative to his Plan. It may contain specifics regarding adult education or it may not, but if it doesn't please rest assured that isn't the end of the road. In our discussions with DOF this fall they're very much open to working with us this year and much of the work we will be moving forward will likely be contained within the budget trailer bills that will be released and revised weeks after the initial Plan summary is released. Adding further reassurance of DOF's willingness to work with us, I'm pleased to announce they will be joining us as a speaker at the CAEAA Conference in February along with the LAO, Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Chairman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Governor Brown's Director of Immigrant Integration Dan Torres, CDE's Carolyn Zachry and many more influential and dynamic speakers.
Finally, please stay tuned for a series of webinars we will be conducting to provide further detail on the priorities, insight on conversations and advocacy in Sacramento, and our plan of action.
We are setting our sights high for FY 18-19 and hope you're feeling the excitement and opportunity that we are!
Happy new year......let's get to work....strength in numbers!