Adult Education: The Need for Dedicated Funding

Sep 22nd, 2014 | By | Category: Adult, Levels
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Kristen Pursley

By KRISTEN PURSLEY

—The current system of funding California’s adult schools sunsets at the end of this school year. After that, the future is uncertain. The only plan for funding adult schools after 2015 consists of a vague intention, stated in the 2012 state budget, to fund them through the regional consortia that include representatives of K-12–based adult schools and community colleges. All consortium funding would come through the Community College Chancellor’s Office. Supposedly some of the money would go to fund K-12 adult schools, but the amount of and delivery system have yet to be worked out.

The Legislative Analysts’ Office (LAO), in its 2012 report, “Restructuring California’s Adult Education System,” recommended that California’s adult schools be restored as a stand-alone categorical program in 2015, reasoning that such funding was necessary to begin rebuilding California’s decimated adult schools; however, while the LAO’s suggestions drive much of the change now sweeping adult schools, there are no plans to reinstate categorical status for adult schools.

Adult school advocates have begun to call for dedicated funding for adult schools, either through categorical status as recommended by the LAO, or through some other plan yet to be developed. Without dedicated adult school funding, adult education in California may become far more inaccessible than it already is, and K-12 districts may lose the valuable support they receive from their adult schools.

Accessibility

Under the current plan, all money for adult education will be routed through the community colleges, and there are no requirements that some or any of the money must be spent on adult schools. There is nothing to prevent community colleges from spending the money on their own needs first, even to the point of starving the adult schools within their consortium area. Potentially, the devastation wrought by categorical flexibility could continue under another name, with adult schools continuing to close down, and adult education in California growing ever more unavailable from those who need it the most.

Adult schools are more accessible than community colleges, in part because there are more of them. California has about 300 adult schools. The state has about 112 community colleges, mostly in urban areas. Rural areas, if they are served at all, are likely to be served by an adult school. While all adult schools and community colleges are now joined in consortia, some of those consortia must cover vast areas. California’s three northernmost counties of Del Norte, Siskiyou, and Modoc have one community college among them, College of the Siskiyous. One of California’s largest counties, Inyo, has no community college. These counties are not very populous, but people live there, and they need educational services. How will their adult schools fare when their budgets are controlled by a community college far away?

Even in urban areas, adult schools are more decentralized within their service areas than community colleges. Adult school classes in K-12 schools, churches, community centers, and nonprofit organizations provide access to adult school students, who often have limited access to transportation. Even for those who do own cars, the parking fees at community colleges can be an insupportable expense. Students do not find this barrier at their adult school sites.

To maintain the accessibility adult schools provide, the state needs to commit to providing them with their own funding.

Support for K-12 Schools

Adult schools provide significant support to the mission of K-12 schools, and they need dedicated funding through the K-12 schools to continue the close relationship with their districts. Adult schools increase parent involvement in children’s schools and help parents develop the skills to support their children’s school success through English as a Second Language, Family Literacy, and Parent Education classes at school sites. Adult school High School Diploma, GED, and Adult Basic Education programs help school districts provide basic literacy to all Californians. If community colleges control adult schools’ purse strings, they might not see the value of programs that primarily support K-12 schools. Dedicated adult school funding would assure that adult schools could continue to provide vital support to school districts.

If all adult school funding comes through the community colleges, school districts may come to regard their adult schools as alien. This could threaten features of adult school programs that have long successfully supported K-12 programs, such as Family Literacy and ESL classes that meet at K-12 school sites. While the state has supposedly committed to an adult education system that includes both community colleges and adult schools, the lines between the two systems are significantly blurred when all the money comes through one system.

Finally, the state needs to establish clarity regarding its intentions toward adult schools. The lack of dedicated funding for adult schools gives rise to the suspicion that the state’s support for adult schools is an illusion, and that the consortia are simply a slower and less obvious route to the governor’s original plan to make community colleges the single provider of adult education in the state. If all the money comes through one system, in what sense do we actually have two systems? The people of California have demonstrated their support for adult schools; only through dedicated funding can the state assure that adult schools will survive.

For more information about dedicated funding for California’s adult schools, see:

http://www.lao.ca.gov/Publications/Detail/2672
http://www.ccaestate.org/legislativenews.html
http://adulteducationmatters.blogspot.com/
www.a4cas.org

Kristen Pursley is the Adult Level assistant chair.

 

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