Guadalupe Marquez, 36, of San Bernardino works in an ESL class at Inland Career Education Center in San Bernardino, on Thursday, April 19, 2016.
DAVID BAUMAN, DAVID BAUMAN STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
By STEPHEN WALL / STAFF WRITER
Published: May 20, 2016 Updated: May 21, 2016 10:58 p.m.
ABOUT THE BILL
Number: Assembly Bill 1846
Author: Patty López, D-San Fernando
Description: Provides $250 million a year from the state's general fund for adult education
Purpose: The recession caused budget cuts that forced thousands of adults to halt their studies, preventing them from getting job skills and pursuing higher education. Status: The bill is scheduled to be heard in the Appropriations Committee on Friday.
Rain or shine, sleet or snow, Rosa Vedoy won’t miss a day of school.
Vedoy, 42, drives from her Running Springs home every weekday for a basic English and math class at Inland Career Education Center, formerly the San Bernardino Adult School.
“I want to be able to achieve more and for my kids to be proud of me,” said Vedoy, a waitress and mother of three who arrived in the United States from Mexico a decade ago.
Vedoy said she’s lucky to have a seat at the crowded campus, which, like other Inland adult schools, has been battered by budget cuts that have eliminated programs and slashed classes. The reductions have led to fewer opportunities for adults to improve their skills as a springboard to a better life.
Aiming to improve the situation, state lawmakers are considering legislation that would restore adult education spending to levels before 2008, when dollars were moved to kindergarten through 12th-grade schools to offset budget troubles during the recession.
Assembly Bill 1846 would boost adult education funding by $250 million a year. The state now sets aside $500 million a year for adult education in block grants to 70 regional consortiums made up of school districts and community colleges.
The measure, scheduled to be heard in the appropriations committee Friday, is needed to save a system that’s “now on its last legs,” said Assemblywoman Patty López, D-San Fernardo, the bill’s author.
Short-term career technical education, including accounting, medical assistant and computer-based technology courses, also were axed.
The district, which will get nearly $8 million from the consortium the next two years, is using some of those dollars to bring back summer school in June. It added 12 classes in the past month, Slyter said.
Because of the district’s growing population, current funding levels don’t meet the demand for services, she said.
The Moreno Valley Unified School District, which saw a 70 percent drop in adult school enrollment from 2008 to 2014, is using consortium money to increase ESL classes and buy Chromebooks so students can apply for jobs online.
The district opened a satellite school in January and plans three more to offer night classes in August, said Tammy Guzzetta, principal of Moreno Valley Community Adult School.
Guzzetta said the district wants to offer logistics and manufacturing classes to prepare students for those industries.
“Those kinds of classes disappeared when the money disappeared,” she said. “Now we have the money.”
Joyce Johnson, dean of career technical education at Mt. San Jacinto College, is co-chairwoman of the consortium serving southwest Riverside County.
Adult schools in the region had a 43 percent enrollment drop from 2009 to 2014. The addition of block grant funding let the college expand ESL, citizenship and GED classes in the past 18 months.
Additional dollars would extend programs to areas far from any adult schools, she said.
“There’s more we can do,” Johnson said.
At the San Bernardino education center, Catalina Diaz said she stood in line at 4 a.m. to get a spot in a GED class.
“I didn’t want to be left out,” said Diaz, 53, a single mother with four children. She started working at 18 to support her oldest daughter and had factory jobs most of her life. She quit her most recent job as a grocery store stocker because the work was draining. Now she wants to become an elementary school teaching assistant.
“It was really hard,” she said of returning to school. “Imagine 34 years without opening a book and studying. But I have to do it if I want a better life for my kids and myself.”
STILL NOT ENOUGH
Inland adult education leaders support the legislation but say it’s not enough to support a growing demand for services in a region with many adults who can’t read or write, speak little English and lack high school diplomas.
“Adult education is still extremely underfunded,” said Karen Bautista, principal of San Bernardino’s center. “We know that it is no longer enough to have a high school diploma to qualify for a sustainable wage job. You need some kind of postsecondary education.”
Recession-era funding cuts prompted enrollment to plummet by almost half since 2008, from 15,000 to 8,500 students. English as a second language classes were cut in half and high school diploma programs by a third during that time, Bautista said.
The center ended classes for older adults such as yoga and aerobics. Summer school, Saturday classes and Monday and Wednesday night courses are over.
The situation is starting to turn around as money from the consortium – expected to be $5 million to $7 million – will allow the center to restore some classes and programs in the next year, Bautista said.
After years of cuts, the Corona-Norco Unified School District is starting to rebuild its adult education program, Director JoDee Slyter said. She is also coordinator of the consortium serving the Riverside Community College District boundaries.
Since 2008, Corona-Norco’s adult enrollment has dropped almost by half, from a little more than 6,000 to about 3,200 students.
The district eliminated summer programs and cut classes from a full week to part time starting in 2009. Officials developed a hybrid model that included online learning outside the classroom to make up for the lost instruction.
To see earlier coverage of Riverside on this blog, go here and here.
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