Friday, December 21, 2012

The Wheel Turns

It's been an amazing year.

This time last year, things didn't look good.  Adult Ed was hardly on the map of the public's mind.

This made it easy to slice and dice it when the state faced a budget crisis.

And hard to explain what Adult Ed is and how it is funded - which is darned complicated, anyway.

In such a situation, we always have choices.

We can give up.  Life is hard and people are stressed and good things are hard to save and do and create.

Or we can stand up.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Good, The Confusing, The Ugly

From the Save Your Adult School blog, a very insightful analysis of the LAO (Legislative Analyst's Office) report on Adult Ed - the good, the confusing, and the ugly.

LAO Report: Restructuring California’s Adult Education System

The Good, the Confusing and the Ugly


The California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) report entitled “Restructuring California’s Adult Education System”, issued on December 5, recommends that the California legislature restore dedicated funding for California’s adult schools. This recommendation is cause for celebration for California’s adult schools, battered as they are by the financial insecurity created by “Tier III Flexibility” in 2009. Unfortunately, the LAO report also makes some recommendations that would be harmful to some of adult education’s most vulnerable students.  Additionally, some features of the general presentation of the report are likely to confuse the general public, and may have already caused a PR problem for adult schools.


The title of the report is misleading, because “adult education” in everyday usage refers to California’s adult schools, which are part of K-12 school districts.  However, the report actually examines California’s adult schools and community colleges equally, using the term “adult education” to refer to both.  In fact, many of the “confusing” and “inconsistent” state regulations criticized in the report are regulations governing community colleges, not adult schools, and these regulations do lead to some inconsistent practices in community colleges, but not in adult schools.  One of the key issues examined by the report is the lack of coordination between adult schools and community colleges, and the “confusion”, “inconsistency” and “disorganization”  described in the report refers to a lack of communication between the two systems, not to internal problems within the two organizations.


The ugly recommendations in this report are those that would hurt vulnerable students, as follows:

1. Charges for all adult literacy classes

For ESL practitioners, the most troubling feature of the report is the recommendation that all adult literacy classes begin charging a fee of $25 or so per course.  Currently  all high school diploma and adult basic education classes, as well as non-credit ESL and Citizenship classes offered by community colleges, are mandated to be offered free.  Because people in the U.S. who lack basic literacy are at a significant economic disadvantage, a “modest” fee of $25 or even less might price those who need these classes most out of an education. For students with very low literacy skills, $25 might be groceries for the week.  The LAO report does not mention a waiver for this fee.

Historically, the state of California has shown a strong commitment to adult literacy by mandating that literacy programs, such as adult basic education, adult secondary education , English as a Second Language and Citizenship classes be offered free by adult schools and as non-credit community college classes.  AB 189, which passed in 2011 and sunsets in 2015, temporarily allowed districts to charge for adult school ESL and Citizenship classes.  Rather than beginning to charge for all literacy classes, the state of California should renew its commitment to adult literacy and mandate that adult school ESL and Citizenship classes be offered free once again when a dedicated funding stream is reinstated for adult education.

2. Elimination of programs that serve older adults

This recommendation is cruel, unnecessary and discriminatory.  It is  cruel because it recommends defunding the one adult school program that is literally a matter of life and death for some students.  The frail elders who rely on these programs for accessible stimulation and social contact may decline much more quickly without them.  This recommendation is unnecessary because it proposes defunding  a program that works well for its vulnerable students, apparently in the name of some bureaucratic need for consistency. The report talks vaguely about the mission of adult education being “too broad”, but the Older Adult program is the only one specifically targeted for elimination, apparently because the LAO doesn’t think the state should spend money on any program not directly related to the workforce.

The recommendation is discriminatory  because it targets a particular group  based on age, and the report uses the language of discrimination to justify its recommendation.  The report states: “Though many types of instruction can be of value to students, we believe the ten statutorily permitted instructional areas of adult education are not all of equal  value” (page 21-22).  Yet the report does not say why programs for Older Adults are not of equal value. One is left to infer that it is because the people these programs serve are not of equal value. These people will never contribute to the economic wealth of the state again, so they are worth less. 

The LAO recommends discarding Older Adult programs without examining their value.  Older Adult programs are a low cost and effective way of serving seniors that keeps them healthy and active so they don’t need more expensive state services.  With support from Older Adult programs, many seniors volunteer, becoming positive assets to their communities.  There is some benefit, also, in giving older adults a direct stake in their local school system, since seniors vote in large numbers.  But the LAO report does not consider any of this.


The report’s recommendations about adult school funding are excellent. The report recognizes that adult schools and community colleges have separate missions and that adult schools perform equally as well as community colleges when it comes to educating adults.  It recommends that adult schools be funded as a separate categorical program within school district budgets, putting an end to Tier III Flexibility.  It recommends a plan to transition from Tier III flexibility back to categorical funding that will not shock districts that are using at least some adult school funds for other purposes (most of them are doing this).

The report recognizes that the state has put community colleges and adult schools into competition with each other, and recommends reforms to funding that will allow the two systems to collaborate. The report also recommends reforms that will help the two systems share data, such as adopting common course numbers and assessments.  It also recommends improved collection of outcome data for both adult schools and community colleges.

The report’s core recommendations about adult education, and about getting adult schools and community colleges to work together for the benefit of their students, are excellent. However, we should not let the report’s many good features excuse its bad ones.  Hopefully the legislature will enact the best features of this report, and recognizing that the bad ones are discriminatory and counter –productive, ignore them.

For a more in-depth treatment of this subject, see

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Adult Ed Needs A Seat At The Table

In mid-January, Gov. Brown will announce the new State Budget and presumably, some version of WSF - Weighted Student Formula.

Funds will be served.

We need some, too.

Adult Ed, as brought home by the Legislative Analyst's Office's report, does much good. 

Adult Ed supports parents of k-12 students (the best predictor of child school success is mother's education level); provides job training; enables immigrants to learn English, participate in US civic life, and become citizens; assists the millions of Californians who need a GED or High School diploma to get one; supplies disabled adults and their families with a means to maintain and increase the highest functioning possible; and empowers seniors to maintain and improve physical, emotional and cognitive health, lessening healthcare costs to the state, and increasing the good seniors do for the community. 

Adult Ed builds, maintains, and strengthens the economic, academic, civc and familial grids which charge our lives.

In other words, Adult Education matters. 

And because Adult Education matters, having a seat at the table when the money is handed out matters.

Do Gov. Brown and our State Legislators know that?

To make sure they do, we're delivering reminders that Adult Needs A Seat The Table.

Staff, students, and community members are using paper plates to deliver the message that Adult Ed needs a seat at the table when the funds are handed out.

Want to join in?

If you're local, stop by the San Mateo Adult School at 789 E. Poplar Ave and step into the big red building - that's the SMART Center.  Plates and pens are at the ready.

If you're not local, start your own campaign at your own Adult School.

It's easy.

1.  Buy paper plates cheaply at Costco, Smart n Final, Big Lots, or similar.
2.  Write messages on the plates.
3.  Deliver your plates to your local legislators' offices in January or make the trip to Sacramento, as we plan to.

4.  Remind your legislators that the Legislative Analyst Office's report asserts the value of Adult Education and calls for a designated funding stream for Adult Ed.  Include a link to the 7 minute video.

Exactly how the budget will divide up funds, we don't know.

Exactly what is the best way to manage and deliver Adult Education in the future, we don't know.

But we know Adult Education matters.

We know funding matters.

And we know that when the funding is served, we need a seat at the table.

Let's make sure Gov. Brown and the Legislature knows it, too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Designated Funding Matters

Just out from Edsource:

Legislative support elusive for adult ed funding plan

California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office says the state’s embattled adult education system needs a dedicated and permanent funding stream that can’t be appropriated for other school programs when the state budget goes south.

Restructuring California’s Adult Education System calls for the state Legislature to restore adult education as a categorical program. Adult Ed advocates lauded the proposal, even though it relies on funding that is speculative and requires a commitment from legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown that they have so far not shown.

Adult schools are an important strand in the state’s safety net, offering community-based classes to some of the state’s neediest adults, ranging from the unemployed, the disabled, and the elderly to ex-offenders re-entering society, immigrants trying to learn English and become citizens, and high school dropouts seeking to earn their GEDs.

Until the 2008-09 academic year, adult education was funded through one of the dozens of categorical programs that could be used only for their stated purpose. But as part of the February 2009 state budget
plan, legislators approved what’s known as “categorical flex,” giving school districts the authority to use funds from 40 categorical programs, including adult education, for any educational purpose.

Chris Nelson, State President of the California Council for Adult Education. (Photo courtesy CCAE). click to enlarge.

The LAO report says that move signaled “adult schools’ lower priority within the K-12 system.” Since then, local school boards have funneled as much as 70 percent of statewide adult ed funds to support K-12 programs, according to Chris Nelson, president of the California Council for Adult Education.

At least 35 programs have shut down as a result, and many of the 300 remaining programs are operating on shoestring budgets. Altogether, the LAO estimates that in 2011-12, the state and federal governments spent about $400 million on district-run adult schools, down from $854 million before flex started.

Many community colleges also offer adult education classes, spending about $1.7 billion last year, according to the LAO, but the colleges take that money from their regular state funding and not from separate categorical accounts.

Categorical flex is due to expire at the end of the 2014-15 school year, and the LAO is recommending that starting in 2015-16 adult education be restored as a categorical program with a dedicated funding stream. The program is a good candidate for restoration of funds, said Paul Steenhausen, who wrote the LAO report, because it reaches a distinct, underserved population.
“Adult education is a different animal,” Steenhausen said. Because it doesn’t serve K-12 students, it is “fundamentally different from other categoricals.”

However, many observers believe that the current level of flexible funding will continue beyond 2014-15 unless Gov. Brown convinces the Legislature to reconfigure the school finance system using a weighted student formula (WSF). Under this approach, money would follow the student, so schools enrolling students with greater needs, such as English learners and those from low-income families, would receive more funds. When Gov. Brown first proposed WSF last January, he didn’t support separate funding for adult education, leading advocates to oppose it.

Even the recent passage of Proposition 30, which increases funding to schools through a combination of a small sales tax increase and higher income taxes on the wealthiest Californians, has not revived support for adult education, according to Nelson.

“We’re still hearing that programs are being threatened with being cut more,” Nelson said. “I have not heard of anybody who has said they’re going to get an increase because of Prop. 30.”

Roadmap to restructuring Adult Ed, California Legislative Analyst’s Office. click to enlarge.

Instead, Nelson said he believes that school districts will be under pressure to use increased revenues to provide raises for teachers. “We’re all fighting for every little dollar, and it’s unfortunate how this has played out – one program against another.”

Nelson described the situation in Sonoma County, which had 11 adult education schools a few years ago, but has only one remaining program, in Petaluma. That program is being inundated by prospective students from all over the county. Nelson expects that Petaluma, which doesn’t have the capacity to serve so many people, will soon have to restrict its program to city residents.

One reason adult education may lack support from some legislators is the program’s uneven distribution across the state. Adult ed schools are more common in urban than rural communities.

The LAO is predicting that as the economy improves, the state will soon be receiving more funds that must be spent on K-14 education. The report recommends that some of this new money should be allocated to adult education based on regional needs and the ability of districts, colleges and local businesses to work as a team to avoid duplication of services and provide smooth pathways for students to jobs and college. The LAO also recommends that funding be allocated based on student outcomes – such as how many successfully complete courses – the way federal funds are now distributed.

But, finally, “the bigger issue is how is adult ed going to get funded,” Nelson said. “The LAO does recommend designated funding for adult ed, and that’s very key.”

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

LAO Calls for Dedicated Funding Stream

The Legislative Analyst Office's report "Restructuring California's Adult Education System" is now out.

(The LAO is California's Nonpartisan Fiscal and Policy Advisor)

It affirms the value of Adult Ed and notes that both K-12 and Community College delivery systems have their strengths.

Note Recommendation #4:   a dedicated stream of funding that creates incentives for cooperation among providers, with new adult education funds allocated based on regional needs.

Here is a summary of the report with links to read the report in full.

Restructuring California's Adult Education System

December 5, 2012


A century and a half after the founding of adult education in the state, we find that the system faces a number of major problems and challenges, including: (1) an overly broad mission; (2) lack of clear delineations between adult education and collegiate coursework at community colleges; (3) inconsistent and conflicting state-level policies; (4) widespread lack of coordination among providers; and (5) limited student data, which impairs the public's ability to hold the system accountable for performance. Given adult education's numerous and significant challenges, we believe the system is in need of comprehensive restructuring. This report lays out a vision and roadmap for a more efficient and effective system. Our package of recommendations includes: (1) a state-subsidized system focused on adult education's core mission; (2) common, statewide definitions that clearly differentiate between adult education and collegiate education; (3) a common set of policies for faculty and students at adult schools and community colleges; (4) a dedicated stream of funding that creates incentives for cooperation among providers, with new adult education funds allocated based on regional needs; and (5) an integrated data system that tracks student outcomes and helps the public hold providers accountable for results.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Give the Fairy Tale A Happy Ending

Education is not just a State issue.  It's a Federal issue as well.

In the following video, the California Federation of Teachers reminds us that as we approach the "fiscal cliff," we need to consider how we got here and where we want to go in the future.

The "cliff" is just a point on the journey.  It's not where we came from or where we're going - those are the places that determine how we get past the cliff and what happens when we do.

They also remind us that the average Joe and Juana and Jin and Juan and Jamal and Jane are the not the people who brought us to the edge of that cliff.

But they are the people who need a good and stable economy and good and fair chances for health, community, and success.

So consider this illuminating tale carefully.

Then give it a happy ending, by clicking here to send an email to your representatives in Congress, reminding them we the people are the ones who generate the money and we the people need it to care for ourselves as a nation.

More info about the CFT video:

Tax the rich: An animated fairy tale, is narrated by Ed Asner, with animation by award-winning artist Mike Konopacki, and written and directed by Fred Glass for the CFT.  The 8 minute video shows how we arrived at this moment of poorly funded public services and widening economic inequality. Things go downhill in a happy and prosperous land after the rich decide they don't want to pay taxes anymore. They tell the people that there is no alternative, but the people aren't so sure.  This land bears a startling resemblance to our land.  After you watch the video, you’ll be able to share it with friends, and send an email to your elected officials to let them know they need to restore higher federal income tax rates on the wealthy so that we may once more enjoy properly funded public services.  WATCH THE VIDEO, which arrives just in time to help with the fight in congress over rescinding Bush’s tax cuts for the rich. Facebook Twitter

Monday, December 3, 2012

CCAE Double Winners!

We all know CCAE is our best advocate in Sacramento.

Membership is a big win-win because it means they've got more numbers behind them and you've got the benefits and info they offer.

And now it's a win-win-win because in this holiday season, you can give someone a membership at just the half the normal price.

And bargain hunter that I am, I'm thinking, work it out with a friend and you both end up members but at half the price.

Now does that work out to yet another win-win or is that a

You decide.

Here's the info:

Price to Join:

Students and friends of Adult Ed are just 20 bucks for the year!  (That's just TEN BUCKS now!)

Teachers are range from $30 to $75 a year, depending on how many hours they work.
(What's half of that with the special deal? 
Work it out, Teachers!)

Classified Personnel (Staff) are 20 to 30, again
depending on hours (Do the math for half!)