AB 189 as Amended April 7

AB 189 (Eng): Education Funding  was amended again on April 7.  The changes with regard to adult education are as follows :

1.  The amended bill eliminates language requiring districts to allocate a “sufficient amount” of funding for adult education such that funding for the program can be “fully reinstated”  when the flexibility period ends. 

2. Under existing law, the governing board of a school district or county office of education must discuss the proposed use of categorical funds at an open, public meeting and must make explicit the uses to which appropriated categorical funds will be put.  The amended bill would require that the public hearing be held prior to and separate from a meeting at which the governing board adopts a budget.  The bill also requires  that the governing board identify  any programs it plans to close before the separate public meeting.

2.  The bill would still remove the prohibition on districts charging for English as a Second Language and Citizenship classes, but only until 2015.  Previously, the change would have been permanent.

Supporters of adult education are likely to view these changes differently depending on their points of view.  The views below are my own:

A. “Sufficient amount” language:  Because this language was very vague and didn’t really promise much protection for adult education, its loss may not be as bad as it seems.  It isn’t really surprising that legislators decided to eliminate language this unspecific.  Still, the only language suggesting even minimal protection for adult education funding is gone.

B.  Public Hearing: While supporters of adult education can and do argue the importance of adult education in a variety of venues, including board of education meetings, a special hearing devoted to appropriation of adult education funds (and presumably other categorical funds) would give adult education a dignity and importance it has not been afforded since flexibility was initiated in 2009.  Presently those who would speak in defense of adult education must sometimes do so at meetings in which adult education is not explicitly on the agenda, and the final vote on cuts to adult education is the same as the vote that adopts the district budget.  The requirement that a governing body must announce proposed program closures in advance of the meeting also puts some additional pressure on districts.

C. Charging for English as a Second Language and Citizenship Classes:  The bill as amended would still allow districts to charge for English as a Second Language (ESL) and Citizenship classes, but only until 2015, when, according to current law, flexibility will sunset.  The fact that these classes were mandated to be offered free until the present time indicates that the state of California has historically recognized  as a public good the availability of ESL and Citizenship classes to all regardless of ability to pay.  By allowing districts to charge for these classes only until 2015, AB 189, as amended, acknowledges the importance of these classes and at least to some extent affirms California’s commitment to making these classes available to as many people as possible. 

AB I89 passed out of the Appropriations Committee on May 27.  You can follow its progress on www.aroundthecapitol.com, and also read comments by others who have been following this bill.  Since the bill was first amended, removing the language that would have reserved 65% of adult education funding for adult education, most of the comments do not say, “support AB 189”, but rather, “We must move adult education from Tier III to Tier I of flexibility”.  Tier III is the category in which funding can be used completely at the discretion of the school district; Tier I is the category in which funding is most protected.  It is important to understand that AB 189 does NOT move adult education funding from Tier III to Tier I.  In fact, in its current form, the only protection it provides is a mandatory separate public hearing on the subject of reallocation of adult education funds.

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