Thursday, May 31, 2012

Press Conference: Tues, 6/12/12, 10:30, SMAS

On Tuesday, June 12, 2012, at 10:30 am, at the San Mateo Adult School, there
will be a press conference about Adult Education - its value, how budget cuts
are affecting it, how WSF and future cuts can break it, and what that would mean for the State of California.

We are inviting students and staff - past and present - from all over California -
to speak and share their stories.

Would you like to speak?

Do you know someone could add something of value?

If so, please contact Cynthia at

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What's Our Message?

1. Adult Education Matters.

Adult Education is the fourth leg of the chair that is education.  It supports people where and when the other systems fail.  It meets the needs of a huge number of people - seniors, immigrants, parents, young adults, job seekers, disabled adults - and it does so in a nimble, low-cost way.  Cut off that leg in the name of saving money and the whole chair goes down.

2.  No on W.S.F.  

Gov. Brown's Weighted School Formula, while it might be good for K-12 schools, is NOT good for Adult Education.  No on WSF unless Adult Ed is pulled out and given its own dedicated funding stream.

3.  Adult Education Needs Its Own Dedicated Funding Stream.

If the steam is smaller because the pool of money is smaller, so be it.  But Adult Education needs its own dedicated funding stream.  It matters.  It serves.  It needs to survive.  And in order to do that, it needs its own dedicated funding stream.

4.  Education Matters.

There is no substitute for good, free, public education.   This is so true, so fundamental, both the left and the right actually agree on this one.  It is the one thing California is united around:  Schools matter.  California schools are struggling.  We, the people of California, want them to be strong and healthy, so that we, the people of California, can be strong and healthy, too - mentally, physically, socially, and economically.

5.  We Can Choose.

Things are changing.   There is turmoil in many areas - the economy, the housing market, the school system,  the State Legislature, our culture.  Old structures are dissolving and new structures are emerging.   We can choose the shape of the new structures and the values they uphold.  What is important to us?  What are our needs?  What are our resources?  What do we want more of and what do we want less of?  We can take time to consider these questions.  We can decide what is important to us.  And we can make choices to strengthen and enlarge what is important to us and decrease what is not.
6.  We can, even in the midst of great difficulty, choose good.

7.  Adult Education is a very good thing.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Contacting the Media

There has been some media coverage about what is happening with adult education but not a lot.

The Huffington Post article, "A Lesson in Adult Education," was a good one, providing information about what is a happening along with some context.

Many articles simply report the fact that budget cuts are happening and that in some areas, students and staff are protesting those cuts, as this L.A. Times article did.

There is a real lack of articles which talk about what is happening all across the state and why and what it will mean to the entire State of California. This situation - the devastation of a program which serves immigrants, disabled adults, job seekers, parents, seniors, and young adults in need of GEDs, High School diplomas and job skills - is of huge import to everyone.

But few know about it.

Few really understand what is happening and why.

We need to change that. And we can.

There are many publications out there - locally and across the state. Locally, there is the San Francisco Chronicle, The San Mateo Times, The San Mateo Daily Journal, The San Jose Mercury News, The Oakland Tribune. In Southern California, the Los Angeles Times covers news about both local and state issues.

People often say "So goes California, so goes the nation." There's no reason not to contact national publications to cover this issue. California's Adult Education system was once the bench mark of "how to do it and do it well." If California's system is falling apart, other states need to wake up and pay attention. We are not the only state with aging boomers, a large number of immigrants, high numbers of high school dropouts, and job seekers who need skills and support as they attempt to re-enter the market. How about a good piece in The Nation or Newsweek?

We as a people can't make good decisions without good information. In our culture, we rely on the media to provide that information. Those of us who know what is going on need to make sure the media has truth to share.

Here's a few ways to get that done:

1. Letters to the Editor – every publication has specific guidelines. Read the publication and check their websites. Some, such as the San Francisco Chronicle, accept only email Letters to the Editor now.

2. Contact columnists and specialty writers and editors. Many publications have columnists. Many also have editors or writers which specialize in certain areas, including education. Read their publications and check their websites to know who might be interested and able to write a good research or opinion piece on what is happening in adult education. Send them a letter or email briefly describing the situation. Suggest that they look into it further and cover it in their publication.

3. Write your own personal opinion piece. Some publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, have forums such The Chronicle's "Open Forum" or Sunday Insight Commentary. Read their publications and check their websites for more information.

4. In general, keep things brief and to the point. No one has time to read pages of information and many people do not like to.

5. There is no single “right” or perfect message which must be conveyed to the media. We all have pieces of a larger truth which the public needs to know about. It is a truth that affects the public. And a truth the public can make choices about. The media’s job is to get that truth to the public. Our job is to get what we know about it - facts, experiences, context, ideas, problems, possible solutions - to the media.

6. If you have a personal tale to tell, tell it. If you want to provide facts, provide them. If you want to make a point about the big picture, make it. If you can present a point a view or a way of solving the problem that is rarely discussed, present it.

7. If you feel nervous about what you are writing, ask someone else to read it over before you send it. Then send it. Don’t worry too much about your writing being perfect or about knowing absolutely everything about the story. Let the media worry about perfect writing and tracking down every fact. That is part of their job. And they have editors and fact checkers to help them do it

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why It's Worth Saving

Wondering why we should save adult education when we're in the middle of a budget crisis and there's not enough money to go around?

Our Assistant Director Tim Doyle has a few good reasons why:

Over 20% of adult Californians, 5.3 million people, lack a high school diploma or equivalent degree.  Half of these people have less than a ninth grade education in a time when education beyond high school is the prerequisite for workforce success.

More than 3 million adult immigrants lack basic English skills.  These immigrants and their children will be the replacement generation for the retiring baby boomers who had the highest levels of education and salary compensation in US history.

Adult Schools provide the foundation level of education for these groups of people.  The opportunities that Adult Schools provide for immigrants to enter and high school dropouts to re-enter the education system do not exist anywhere else.  There is no seat for these students when Adult Schools close.

Governor’s Brown proposal on education funding, called the Weighted Student Formula, would eliminate funding for Adult Schools.  His plan calls for money to be redirected to schools that serve high levels of low income and English learner chilldren.  But closing education opportunities for the parents of those students will only make it more difficult for these children to achieve when their parents do not have the skills to get a job or to support their child’s education.

Tell your legislators to oppose Governor Brown’s Weighted Student Formula. 

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Help with Writing Letters and Emails

Many times, people feel nervous when they sit down to write an email or letter.  What should they say?  What will the other person think of them?  What if they don't say it right?  What if they leave something out?

Here are some facts and questions that might help you as you write your emails and letters in support of Adult Education:

First, just a take a minute and think about adult schools. 

Do you know anyone who went to an Adult School?

Did you go to an Adult School, yourself?  How about friends and family?

Here's a list of the sorts of people who attend adult schools.  Most likely you know some of these people or perhaps you fall in a category, yourself.

Immigrants.  Adult Schools help immigrants learn and improve their English.  They help them learn the US way of doing things and they encourage immigrants to participate in civic life - to volunteer at their children's schools, to participate in Earth Days clean-up activities, to be a good neighbor, a good driver, and a good employee.  Adult Schools provide citizenship classes, job skills clases, and parenting classes, all tailored to immigrants. 

Immigrant parents.  This deserves a special category because of the link between parent literacy and student success.  The best predictor of a child's success in school is the mother's literacy level.  Adult Schools help immigrant parents with English skills and give them an understanding of how US schools work and what is expected of both kids and their parents.

Young Adults.  Sometimes young people are not able to finish high school.  Adult Schools help them get their GED or high school diploma.  They help them with job training and job hunting.  They encourage them to back in the game and succeed, so that they take on the full joys and responsibilities of adulthood.

Seniors.  Many people do not realize that many classes for seniors, many of them off-site of Adult School campuses, are provided by Adult Schools.  These classes offer a wide array of opportunities to stay mentally, physically and emotionally healthy, cutting down health care costs, and enabling seniors to remain vital contributors to community life.

Job hunters.  Adut Schools provide classes in job skills, resume writing, and job search.  Some of them provide drop-in hours with a counselor to assist job hunters in their search.

Note:  Because of the large budget cuts in the last three years, more and more of these classes have been cut.  But this has been an area where Adult Schools well served an important need for many years.
Parents and caregivers (immigrant or US born).  Adult Schools provide classes that train both parents and caregivers in childcare, child development, and teen psychology.  Some of these classes fit the requirement for court mandated parent education, enabling parents to get the skills they need to maintain or obtain a healthy relationship with their children.
Caregivers for seniors.  These sorts of classes fall into the "job training" category, of course, but deserve special mention because these are such important jobs.  No one wants caregivers - for either children or seniors - to do the job badly.  Good training and education of caregivers is essential to a healthy community. 

Disabled adults.  This was a special niche that Adult Education filled for many years.  Again, because of the severe budget cuts many Adult Schools have experienced, many of these classes were cut, to the detriment of many people, including the families of the disabled adults.
In essence, whether or not you personally have taken a class at an Adult School, you can bet your life that your life is better because of Adult Education.

So, having stopped to think a minute about all this, ask yourself:

Why is Adult School important to your life? 

To your boss? 

To your children? 

To the community? 

To the State?

And what would happen if it were gone?

Your emails and letters do not have to be fancy. 

They just need to say why you value Adult Education and why you want California to continue to provide it.

It would also be helpful to say that flexibility and Brown's suggested Weighted Student are very bad for adult education.  (You can read why in earlier posts.)  You can also say that adult education needs its own budget.  If the money for adult education is constantly used to help other programs survive their own cuts, it won't survive.  It needs its own budget.  Luckily, because Adult Education does such a great job of doing things in a low-cost way, it does not have to be a big budget.  Adult Schools do a great job of providing big things to many people on small budgets.  (Actually, they are great examples of how to do this!

Important:  These emails and letters need to be sent as soon as possible.

The revised budget will be released May 15.  Directions and decisions will start hardening.  We need to speak now.

Go to

and enter your address.  Do not worry.  No information is saved.

You will find out who your state legislators are.  Send them the emails or letters.

Letters are great but if you won't send a letter because it is too much trouble, then send an email.

What matters is speaking up and telling the State Legislature NOW that adult education is important to you.

I will provide specific addresses for President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg and the names of caucus members in another post.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

We Need Letters Now

Adult education matters.  It matters a lot.

And right now we are in danger of losing it.

Here's why:

The "Weighted Student Formula" is a proposal by Governor Brown to dissolve virtually all categorical programs and divide the resulting pot of money among K-12 school districts for use with k-12 students.

(Now might be a good time to re-read the earlier posts that explain how we got here and why it's a bad idea to pit different parts of California's educational system against each other.)

Adult education is a categorical program.  Funding for adult schools would disappear under WSF ("Weighted School Formula").

Next week Gov. Brown will announce the amount of money the state really has after the final April tax collections.  Based on that, he will offer adjustments to his budget proposal.

Then the legislators must create legislation to pass a budget.

Important:  They can follow Gov. Brown's proposal - or not.

Important:  If they follow his proposal, it's pretty much the end for adult schools.

So now what?

Find your legislators here:

Then write them a letter or email.

Tell them not to implement Gov. Brown's WSF as proposed. 

Adult education needs to have separate funding or at least be pulled from Gov. Brown's consolidation and remain a categorical program, by itself.

Is this confusing?


If you feel confused, go back and read the earlier posts that explain how we got here.

I will write a separate post (soon) with more details about the WSF.

In the meantime, get cracking on those letters and emails.

This is serious.  Real serious.

Tell your legislators how adult schools helps the community.  If you are a teacher at an adult school, tell them how the school helps and serves the community.  If you are student (or alumni), tell them how the school helped you and the community.  If you are a community member, tell them what it means to have a healthy, educated, English-speaking community adding skill, power and intellligence to the economy, civic life and school system. 

Tell them.

Tell them now.

Because if you don't, we're in real danger of losing that skill, power and intelligence.

And we're too smart to do that.



Last thing, here's a sample letter from CCAE (California Council of Adult Educators):

            May 7, 2012

        The Honorable Jerry Brown
       Governor, State of California
         State Capitol
S      Sacramento, CA 95814

        The Honorable Xxxx Xxxx                                               The Honorable Xxxx Xxxx
        California State Senate                                                   California State Assembly
        State Capitol, Room xxx                                                  State Capitol, Room xxx
       Sacramento, CA 95814                                                   Sacramento, CA 95814
        RE: Governor’s Weighted Student Formula Proposal – OPPOSE
        Dear Governor Brown and Honorable Members:
        As an administrator/educator/student/adult education supporter, I must
        respectfully and adamantly oppose the Governor’s FY 2012-13 budget proposal to
        consolidate all education categorical programs with complete local flexibility
        as part of the weighted student formula, specifically as it relates to adult education.
As you know, categorical programs such as adult education have experienced
severe cuts –  if not outright elimination – under the flexibility proposal enacted as
part of the FY 2008-2009 budget.  Previously, adult education served over 1.2 million
students in California in programs ranging from English as a Second Language
(ESL) and citizenship to GED and basic skills to workforce and career technical
training.  Since that time, we’ve seen countless schools across the state close
their doors on those who need their programs the most and many others
        across the state that face elimination at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. 

        The Governor’s current proposal permanently codifies this flexibility, thus
        eliminating support for adult education.  Going forward it would provide
         support to districts on a weighted basis for K-12 students only, thereby
        forcing the elimination of adult education in California.  This ultimately
        leaves adults in need of basic skills, GEDs, English as a Second Language
       (ESL) classes, and short-term career technical training without any options. 
        The populations most affected by this will be underserved and
        disadvantaged adults who are in desperate need of these services.  
         In utilizing adult education programs, they become contributing members
        of society and responsive and involved parents that translates into
        tremendous budgetary  savings in the child welfare and public
        safety arenas by lessening their involvement in child welfare services
        and decreasing the likelihood of committing crimes or reoffending. 

         The bottom line is that adult education is too important to allow it to
         be eliminated.  The success of K-12 students depends on the success
         and engagement of their parents and community. Furthermore,
         the consolidation of other K-12 categorical programs will fund
         supplemental services for students (K-12) who will always have
         a seat in a classroom. When adult schools close, however, there is
         no place for adult students to go for basic skills and programs –
         this leaves them further disenfranchised. Adult education
         is an investment in the future of our state and our families,
         as research shows that better educated parents raise
         better educated, more successful children, who are less
         likely to end up in poverty or prison.
        We strongly urge you to remove adult education from
         categorical flexibility and the Governor’s categorical
        consolidation proposal and reinstitute it as its own stand
         alone education program. 


X      Xxxx Xxxx
        Address (Home)
        School/School District (as appropriate)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Getting The Good Things

San Francisco Chronicle, Thursday, April 26, 2012.

According to this article, "Nearly 80 percent of Californians oppose $5 billion in so-called trigger cuts to state schools this fall, but only a slight majority of voters support the governor's tax plan to stop it, according to a survey of 2,000 voters released Wednesday."

Apparently, "65 percent (of voters), like the idea of a tax on the wealthy to support schools, but 52 percent of those surveyed said they don't like the sales tax increase."

That's interesting because the Millionaire's Tax, which Brown was against, would have taxed only the top 1% of earners and not increased sales tax.  The current initiative is a compromise between Millionaire's Tax supporters and Governor Brown.  Brown is the one who pushed to include the sales tax increase. 

(FYI to those who are worried:  sales tax provides only 15% of the revenue that will be brought in by the initiative.  The bulk of  the revenue is taxes on the top 3% of taxpayers in California.)

We hope, of course, that the compromise initiative passes in the Fall 2012 election.  If it doesn't, many trigger cuts will go into effect and then the dominoes will really begin to fall. 

Again, according to the article, no one (or almost no one) wants that.  Democrats, Republicans, and Independents all agree:  more cuts to schools is not the solution.

It's guaranteed that we as a state will never completely agree on what the solution is.  Perhaps we are lucky that we agree on the problem.

But going over the facts as stated in the article in the San Francisco Chronicle - people don't want to cut education but they don't want to raise sales tax but they didn't sign for the initiative that would have helped education and not increased sales tax - something is very clear:

There is indeed a disconnect.

We, as a people, are not thinking clearly.

We, as a people, are not being honest.

Money is about choices.

How much money do we have?  What we do want to spend it on?  Given that amount of money and given those choices, what do we choose to spend it on?

For the future, will we have or can we get more money?  Will we have different things we want to spend money on?

For that matter, all of life is about choices.

How much time do we have?  What do we want to spend it on?  Given that amount of time and given those choices, what do we choose to spend our time doing?

What do we value? 

Education?  For whom?  Under what circumstances?  

Safety?  For whom?  Under what circumstances?

Opportunity?  For whom?  Under what circumstances?

We are a culture with a capital "I".  Not all cultures capitalize their i's.  Not all cultures value the individual like we do.  Is that right?  Is that wrong?

We often use the word, "duty."  Usually in connection with "to our country."  But what does that mean?  Is "duty" only about the military?  Do we have a duty to help each other in some way?  Do we have a duty to educate our children?  Do we have a duty to assist our elders in staying as healthy and vital as  possible?  Do we have a duty to provide immigrants with the means and opportunity to participate in our culture in a responsible, contributing way? 

Do we have the duty to vote?  To participate in the democracy that we talk so much about.  In some countries, that is considered a duty.  A legal duty.  Not ours.

Whatever we choose, let us be honest.

What do we value?

What do we want?

What do we choose?

What is the cost of that choice?

And how do pay for it?

Choice, while highly valued, is often a heavy burden.  It's tough to make choices.  Tough to be honest about what is really available, what that really means, and what we really want and are willing to do about it.

If it were easy, we wouldn't avoid it so.

If it were easy, there would be fewer headlines about disconnects in our budgets - not just at the state level but in the workplace and our in personal accounts, as well.   Fewer disconnects, in general, in every area of our lives.

Disconnects that begin in the fear of looking at things honestly.

But what, really, is there to fear?

There is great power to be had in being honest.  In making choices.  And in being willing to work for what we choose.

More things are possible than we realize.  Good things. 

To get them, we just need to choose them, and do the work to get them.

And realize that good things take time.  And effort.  And community.

But they are possible.

They are, indeed, possible.

Let us choose them.