May 12 Board of Education Meeting: Plan to Maintain Adult Education Services Unveiled

At the May 12 Board of Education meeting, West Contra Costa Adult Education Principal Raul Ramirez presented a plan for the 2010-2011 which would maintain services at about the same level as the current 2009-2010 year.  According to this plan, for which the Board of Education unanimously voiced support, the Older Adults and Adults with Disabilities programs will remain a part of the adult school program without substantial cuts, and the fees that were instituted this year will be rescinded, so that these classes will once again be free.  This is welcome news for supporters of adult education, since for much of the year these programs seemed to be threatened with elimination, as they were not included in the “core program” which the district said it would support.  These programs were still not described as being part of the “core program” in the May 12 report, but they were designated as “community programs” that would be retained.

The “core program”, consisting of English as a Second Language,Citizenship, High School Diploma, CAHSEE Prep, GED Prep and Adult Basic Education, will also be maintained at about current levels under the plan, and the fees that were charged this year for these programs will also be rescinded next year.  Under the plan, classes in these programs will once again be offered free of charge, as directed by California laws that have been temporarily suspended to help address the state budget crisis.

Under the plan, the “fee based” classes, which include a variety of recreational and vocational classes for which students pay an affordable fee, will operate more or less as they have this year.

The plan appeared to have strong support from both the Board of Education and the district.  Assistant Superintendant Sheri Gamba worked on the plan with Principal Raul Ramirez at the direction of Superintendant of Schools Dr. Bruce Harter. 

For supporters of adult education, who were dreading further devastating cuts to the program as the district took another million dollars from the adult school’s operating budget, the plan for 2010-2011 is much better than expected.  A program based on the 2009-2010 year is still a much reduced program, as the services of almost every program were cut by about 50% this year.  Nor has the district decided against taking a million dollars from adult education’s budget; the budget for next year is about one million less than the current year’s budget.  Rather, it seems that the district has found ways to make cuts to the program that do not necessitate further cuts to direct services to the public. The district is to be commended for recognizing the importance of the services the adult school provides and finding a way to preserve them in a time of severe financial hardship.  If the district can persevere in this course, the West County community and the district itself will benefit, as West County residents will continue to have access to the educational services they need to find employment and help their children succeed in school.

There was a small but spirited rally in support of adult education in front of LoVonya DeJean Middle School from 5:30 pm until the meeting began at 6:30 pm.  About 12 people sang and held signs in support of adult education.  Among them were members of a group of about 10 students from the Older Adult program who occupied one of the front rows during the meeting, all of them holding signs.  A group of ESL students sat in the back of the room holding signs, and about ten adult school teachers were in attendance.  Maria Alegria of Richmond Vision spoke during the public comment period, and Daniela Picazo of St. Mark Catholic Church, Juan Reardon of Richmond Progressive Alliance and Roberto Reyes of Contra Costa Central Labor Council and the United Way were all able to attend part of the meeting. Congressman George Miller sent a letter in support of adult education that was read during the public comment period. The letter and a resolution in support of adult education by the Contra Costa Central Labor Council were presented to the board.

The movement to save adult education started at the Cinco de Mayo parade of 2009, and some of the signs the supporters of adult education carry at Board of Education meetings date from that time, and are smeared with the rain that fell on them more than a year ago when they were carried in the parade. Now, more than a year later, the district and the board seem to have heard the voices that sang in that parade, wrote scores of letters, sat through hours of meetings again and again and spoke out with passion when the public comment period finally came.  They are to be commended for hearing those voices and for understanding the pressing needs of the community. If the plan that was presented on May 12 goes into effect next year maintaining the current level of vital services and rescinding the fees, it will be a victory, not just for adult education, but for public education.  By returning to the plan laid out in California law, which mandates that  vitally needed educational services for adults  be offered free of charge, the West Contra Costa Unified School District will reaffirm that education is a right of all.  This can only strengthen the public education system that now finds itself so under attack.

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One Response

  1. COSAS, Communities Organized to Save Adult School, is a volunteer grassroots coalition of individuals and organizations to SAVE ADULT SCHOOL in WCCUSD.

    I have been attending COSAS meeting for over a year. COSAS members have a profound commitment to public education and understand how integral adult education is to improving the quality of life for their families and the Older Adult community.

    I want to acknowledge Boardmembers Antonio Medrano and Tony Thurmond who have been our steadfast supporters throughout this difficult year of budget cuts – they’ve returned our phone calls, emails and have facilitated meetings with district staff.

    The recent support from Congressman George Miller and the Contra Costa Central Labor Council is awesome!

    Please SAVE THE DATE: JUNE 22. It is imperative that we attend this important WCCUSD Board budget meeting and voice our support for Adult Education.

    YES WE CAN! SI SE PUEDE!

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