AB 189 — Protected Funding for Adult Education

Note: AB 189 has been  amended several times since this post was written. For more information, see the posts “AB 189 Ammended, Now Very Dangerous for Adult Education” (posted to this blog March 5, 2011), “Comments by Mike Wada” (posted to this blog March 9, 2011) “AB 189 as Amended April 7” (posted to this blog April 24, 2011).  Also see “Against Fees for Adult English as a Second Language and Citizenship Classes” (posted to this blog April 24, 2011), for a comment on the one feature of this bill that has remained constant through the various amendments.

AB 189, a bill that proposes to provide some protection for adult education funding in California, was introduced into the State Assembly on January 26, 2011 and referred to the Assembly Committee on Education  on February 10, 2011.  The bill was authored by Assembly Member Michael Eng (D-Monterey Park)  The bill can be viewed and tracked at www.aroundthecapitol.com.

Members of Communities Organized to Support Adult School (COSAS) have studied this bill, and our analysis follows.  We welcome corrections and comments.

The bill does not restore adult education funding to pre-2008-2009 levels or restore attendance (ADA) as a source of adult education funding.  It provides that 35% of adult school funding can still be flexed (that is, swept into the district general fund to be used to provide educational services other than adult education). However, if the bill passes, districts that receive funds based on adult education funding in the 2007-2008 school year would have to spend 65% of those funds on adult education or else forfeit those funds to the state. The state would appropriate the funds through a request for proposal process that would be open only to school districts that offer adult education programs, and the appropriated funds could be used only for adult education programs.

If Tier III flexibility is extended beyond 2013, districts receiving funds based on 2007-2008 adult education funding would have to dedicate an additional 5% of that funding to adult education  for each year flexibility is extended, so that in 2014,  70% of funds would have to be spent on adult education, in 2015, 75%, and so on.

COSAS members were not able to come to a clear determination of what the 65% figure would be based on.  Would it be 65% of the funds the district receives based on state monies apportioned to adult education during the 2007-2008 school year? For West Contra Costa, that would be about $3,250,000, 65% of the 5,000,000 state money we received in 2008-2009.   Or would it be 65% of what the adult school still receives from the district, which for West Contra Costa, that would be $1,300,000, which is 65% of the $2,000,000 in state funds we currently receive from the district. The language of the bill seems to indicate that the former figure is intended, but it is not completely clear.  We have heard from other members of the adult education community that school superintendants are saying that the  65% figure would have to be lowered, because they have already taken more that 65% of the adult school funds and will not be able to find the money to replace them.   

The bill also would change state law so that districts could charge fees for English as a Second Language (ESL) and Citizenship classes and for classes in elementary subjects (known in adult ed. as Adult Basic Education, or ABE).  It is currently illegal to charge for these classes, though some adult schools are charging now because the laws regarding adult education have  supposedly been suspended until 2013. Classes for which high school credit is granted would still have to be offered free of charge by law.

The bill also provides that adult schools will have to spend the money they receive on certain adult education programs in the following proportions:

Sixty-five percent on the “core areas”:  Adult Basic Education, Adult Secondary Education, High School Diploma, English as a Second Language and Career Technical education;

Ten percent on equipment and support services for Career Technical Education;

Twenty-five percent on other types of adult school programs,as long as they have “defined student outcomes”.

The bill also states that districts “are encouraged” to work toward targeted measurable student outcomes, such as increasing the number of students who earn a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) equivalent, increasing the number of students who go on to higher education, increasing the number of students who become employable or get jobs or promotions, and increasing the number of students who take Citizenship classes or qualify for the military.

Finally, the bill states that it is the intent of the legislature that school districts and county offices of education report attendance using the Standardized Account Code Structure reporting process beginning in the 2011-2012 school year, and that the Department of Education develop a tracking system and data collection system to assess the outcomes of adult education programs.

Some Questions about AB 189

1. Why does a bill to protect some funding for adult education also legalize fees for English as a Second Language, Citizenship and Adult Basic Education classes?   There is no necessary connection between the two things, and if adult schools once again have a secure funding stream, they will have less need to charge for these classes.

2.  Why does the bill require adult schools apportion their funding by spending certain percentages on selected programs as laid out in the bill?  Were adult schools required to spend their funds in accordance with percentages laid out by law before?  The percentages adult schools spend on various programs now are most likely driven by student demand and need, which varies from one adult school to another.  Imposing the same percentages on adult schools throughout the state seems rigid, and might conceivably serve as a barrier to some adult schools meeting the actual needs of their communities. 

Interestingly, a look at a chart from CalEdFacts, produced by the California Department of Education, indicates that the proportion to be spent on “core programs” as provided by AB 189 is  probably somewhat smaller than what was spent on “core programs” in 2008-2009.  The chart, “Adult Education Learner Distribution by Instructional Program”,  shows that students in the ABE, ESL, Adult Secondary Education, Citizenship and Career Technical Education programs made up 76.8 of adult education students.  AB 189 apportions 65% of funding to this group.  Students in the Adults with Disabilities, Older Adult, and Parent Education programs made up about 19.5 % of adult education students in 2009.  These students fall into the group to whom AB 189 apportions 25% of adult education funds (though other programs could also be funded by this 25% of funds).

The Adult Education Learner Distribution chart is probably a pretty good indicator of how adult education funds were apportioned in 2009, since adult schools funds are generally spent according to the number of students served.


One Response

  1. I truly appreciate this update, the work that went into preparing it, and the actual executing of the information to empower us with the facts as interpreted by COSAS. I, too, am concerned with the restrictions and would like to see apportions determined individually by each department, so it meets the need of the area served.

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