Sunday, March 10, 2019

From Pinole Progressive Alliance and Many Others: Open Letter to Governor Gavin Newsom re: Adult School Older Adult Programs

Posted on the Save Your Adult School blog and sent from the Pinole Progressive Alliance - and many others, including myself (Cynthia Eagleton) and the teachers of CFT Local 4681 (San Mateo Adult School): 

Open Letter to Governor Gavin Newsom re: Adult School Older Adult Programs

March 9, 2019
Pinole Progressive Alliance

Governor Gavin Newsom
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: Save Adult School Older Adult Programs
Dear Governor Newsom:
We are writing to request that the State of California find a way to fund adult school Older Adult programs. The cities of Richmond and El Cerrito are in danger of losing, as early as June, an adult school program that serves hundreds of older adults. Other cities may lose similar programs in the near future if something is not done soon. These highly effective and inexpensive programs are at risk because of a decision the California State Legislature made in 2013 to withdraw state funding for adult school Older Adult programs. Acting dishonestly and in bad faith, legislators promised to find other funding for these programs, but never did, leaving the programs in limbo. This is an injustice we hope your new administration will correct.
The programs at risk in Richmond and El Cerrito are the Christ Lutheran Senior Center, St. John’s Senior Center, and the Sakura Kai program for Japanese-speaking seniors. If these programs have to close down, it will be a loss to the community as well as to the students. Assumptions about aging often blind us to the contributions seniors can make with the proper support. Many of the students at Christ Lutheran Senior Center volunteer in the schools with programs like the Read Aloud and Writer Coach Connection. Through the Center, seniors find volunteer opportunities and access the support that helps them keep volunteering. Sakura Kai provides docents for museum exhibits on Japanese-American history in the Bay Area, and has several performance groups, including a Taiko drumming group, that perform at local schools and at community events.  If these programs close, their cultural resources will be lost to the community, while cities are left to deal with a more isolated senior population, and families will have to cope with the loss of a service that was helping their older relative stay healthy and independent.
Adult school programs for Older Adults are a good investment for the state. They combat isolation, which is one of the most serious challenges facing older Americans, and provide opportunities for socialization and mental stimulation that contribute to healthy aging. Studies have repeatedly shown that programs   where older adults learn new things, socialize, and stay active in civic life through volunteering and other opportunities actually save the state money by helping seniors stay healthy and active longer. Healthy, active seniors need fewer government services, and they also make significant contributions to their communities in the form of volunteer labor.

When the state eliminated funding for adult school Older Adult programs, many adult schools were forced to close those programs. But others, feeling an obligation to students they had served for years, found ways to keep their Older Adult programs open with whatever other funding they could find. This often required them to start charging at least some money for classes that had once been free, which put these much-needed services out of reach for low-income seniors. But the schools did their best to subsidize the programs as much as possible and make them accessible to as many elders as they could. Now some of these programs that were struggling are beginning to falter, and they, too, may be lost if the state does not remedy the situation.
Whatever the reason the state had for pulling the funding for adult school programs for seniors, it wasn’t really economic. Under state law, community colleges can still run similar programs with state funds, and these programs are more expensive than adult school programs because community college teachers make more money. Many community colleges do not have Older Adult programs, as they are primarily institutions of higher learning concerned with offering college level courses for credit. When an adult school has to close its Older Adult program for lack of funding, there is no guarantee that a nearby community college has a similar program, or is willing to start one. Even if a community college is willing to pick up an adult school Older Adult program, it is more expensive to break down an existing program and start a new one than to keep an existing program going.
Adult school advocates were told, at the time the state pulled funding for Older Adult programs, that the legislature did not think programs for Older Adults belonged in the education budget. Perhaps money would be found in the health budget. This seems to have been a dodge, since they never did anything, but simply left these programs to close or languish. Yet they left funding for Older Adults in the community college budget, which is part of the education budget. Californians deserve an education policy that is consistent and fair. We ask that funding be found for adult school Older Adult programs, and we feel that they should be part of the education budget, as they are for the community colleges. It is an insult to older Californians to suggest that they don’t deserve education, and that everything for seniors belongs in the health budget; to be old is not necessarily to be sick. Older people continue to learn, grow and contribute. California needs to invest in them and treat them like the assets they are.

Pinole Progressive Alliance
Consuelo Lara, Concilio Latino
Jessica Peregrina, Concilio Latino
Adult School Teachers United
Richmond Progressive Alliance School Action Team
Cynthia Eagleton, Adult School Teacher, San Mateo Adult School, Adult Education Matters Blogger
California Federation of Teachers CFT Local 4681, representing San Mateo Adult School teachers

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