Meeting with Assembly Member Sandre Swanson’s Office re AB 189

On Thursday, February 17th, members of  two organizations that support adult education in the San Francisco Bay Area, B-BAEC of Oakland  and COSAS of West Contra Costa, met with an aide to Assemblymember Sandre Swanson, Lailan Sandra Huen, regarding AB 189.  AB 189 is a state bill that would restore some protections to adult education funding. The bill is authored by Michael Eng, of Monterey Park, and he controls all amendments to the bill.  Sandre Swanson, as a co-author, can suggest amendments.

The discussion focused mainly on the provision of the bill that would make charging fees for adult English as a Second Language, Citizenship, and Adult Basic Education classes legal.  The group eventually agreed that they would like to request that Assemblymember Swanson suggest that this provision be taken out of the bill.  Ms. Huen pointed out that the provision was included in the bill in hopes that it would make the bill more likely to pass. However, the group pointed out that a fee of $25 or $30 per semester is not enough to sustain the program, but is prohibitively expensive for many low income students.  Solomon Belette of Catholic Charities pointed out that money spent on classes that increase the literacy skills for California’s population should be seen as an investment, rather than a drag on the state’s funds, and many people in the group pointed out that increased literacy is much cheaper than increased unemployment, crime and other social ills that can attend low literacy levels.  Olivia Byler of East Bay Refugee Program pointed out that refugees newly arrived in the United States desperately need English classes, and that they must survive on extremely small government allowances that would not be enough for them to pay fees for an ESL class.  She also pointed out that being in an English class contributed more to the mental health of refugees than any other factor.

Ana Turetsky of B-BAEC also pointed out that allowing school districts to charge fees for English classes is discriminatory based on where students live, since community colleges, which are in charge of adult education is some parts of the state, are also required by law to offer ESL, Citizenship and ABE classes free, and the law would not change for them. Thus, if AB 189 passes as written, a student in San Francisco, where the comunity college is in charge of all adult education,would be able to attend ESL classes free of charge, while a student in Oakland, where adult education is part of the K-12 system, might have to pay.

Ms. Huen was very generous with her time.  The meeting had been scheduled for a half hour, but went on for two hours.  Ms.Huen said she would bring the group’s concerns to Assemblymember Swanson.


One Response

  1. Thank you those who attended the meeting and those who wrote this update. It is wonderful to know what is going on and who is repsonsible for what.

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