Adult Education Regional Consortia

Mar 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: Adult, Levels
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Adult Education Regional Consortia—What Will They Mean
for ESL in Adult Schools and Community Colleges?


—Adult education regional consortia between community college and K-12 school districts will change the face of adult education in California beginning in 2015–2016. Consortia were required to file a Certificate of Eligibility, Intent to Apply, and Project Management Plan by February 24 in order to qualify for a share of $25 million in two-year consortium planning and implementation grants appropriated to the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) in the 2013–2014 state budget. The AB 86 Adult Consortium Planning Grant was to commence on March 5, 2014.

Assembly Bill 86 (AB 86) lays out expectations for development of the consortia, and it establishes an AB 86 Cabinet and Work Group composed of members from the K-12 adult school and community college systems. According to AB 86, a consortium must consist of, at minimum, one community college district and one K-12 school district, and it may include other adult education providers, such as library literacy programs. Grant funds may be used for planning to provide adults with:

  1. Elementary and secondary basic skills;
  2. ESL, citizenship, and workforce-preparation programs for immigrants;
  3. Programs for adults with disabilities;
  4. Short-term career technical programs; and
  5. Apprenticeship programs.

Within their region, consortia must plan to evaluate existing adult education programs, identify the need for adult education services, and create a plan to address service gaps. Consortium members must plan to coordinate their programs to smoothly transition adult students into postsecondary education or the workforce.

The regional consortia are the result of a compromise reached after a heated debate over the future of K-12 adult schools under Governor Jerry Brown’s sweeping reform of education funding in California, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Under the LCFF, most categorical funds in the K-12 system are swept into a pot to be redistributed according to the LCFF, providing more funding for districts with large populations of students with greater needs, such as low-income students and English language learners. As K-12 adult schools are categorical programs, the passage of the LCFF left them in a precarious position. Although a 2012 Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) report recommended that the state retain both community colleges and K-12 adult schools, Governor Brown proposed abolishing adult schools and reassigning their functions to the community colleges. The state assembly, on the other hand, recommended the restoration of K-12 adult schools as categorical programs. The regional consortia were created as a compromise. As Governor Brown proposed, all money for adult education would come through the Community College Chancellor’s Office, rather than through K-12 school districts. But as the LAO and the state assembly had recommended, the two delivery systems, community colleges and K-12 adult schools, would remain.

While passage of the LCFF was the crisis that brought the regional consortia into being, the consortia are also the state’s first attempt to enact policy recommendations that have been in place for some time. The 2011 California State Strategic Plan report, “Linking Adults to Opportunity: A Blueprint for the Transformation of the California Department of Adult Education Program,” identified lack of coordination between K-12 adult schools and community colleges as a weakness that must be addressed to improve the state’s adult education system. The 2012 LAO report, “Restructuring California’s Adult Education System,” which closely followed the strategic plan in its analysis, made the same finding. The purpose of the consortia is, primarily, to get community colleges and K-12 adult schools to work together.

Under the consortia, community colleges and K-12 adult schools will need to evaluate their programs and decide how best to meet community needs, possibly adding classes or switching some types of classes from one program to another. ESL practitioners in the two systems will need to get to know each other’s programs and align curriculum.

As the consortia are a work in progress, much about the future of adult education is still uncertain, particularly the future of funding for K-12 adult schools. While either the K-12 district or the community college district can be the fiscal agent for a consortium, all money will come through the Community College Chancellor’s Office. There is no money for K-12 adult schools independent of the consortia, and while there is an implied promise of money for K-12 adult schools through the consortia, no definite amount or mechanism for the delivery of funds has yet been determined. Community college districts can opt out of the consortia. While more remote community college districts may enter into consortia with adult schools whose closest community college district has opted out, it is unclear what would happen to a K-12 adult school that could not find a community college district to collaborate with. At a January 29 legislative hearing on adult education, several panelists, including some AB 86 Work Group members, testified that K-12 adult schools still face an uncertain future.

Since consortia will differ depending on regional needs, ESL practitioners should become familiar with their own consortium as quickly as possible and ask to be involved in the planning process.

The following are some resources for learning more about the consortia:

AB 86 webpage:

LAO report, “Restructuring California’s Adult Education System”

State Strategic Plan, “Linking Adults to Opportunity”

To view the January 29 legislative hearing on adult education

Kristen Pursley is the Adult Level assistant chair.


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