West Contra Costa Board of Education Meeting June 1: Preliminary Budget Report Recommends Funding Adult Education at 2010-2011 Level

The West Contra Costa Unified School District’s Preliminary Budget Report presented at the June 1 meeting of the West Contra Costa Board of Education recommends that adult education and the School Resource Officers  (SRO) programs for 2011-2012 be funded at 2010-2011 levels.  If the board approves a final budget which follows this recommendation,  these two programs will not lose $1 million each, as they would have done under a plan  the board of education adopted by a 3-2 vote at it’s meeting of  March 2nd this year.  The recommendation that the two programs retain the 2010-2011 funding levels is based on Governor Jerry Brown’s May revise of the California state budget, which did not include significant further cuts to K-12 education.  The plan to take $1 million each from the adult education and SRO programs was part of preparation for a “worst case scenario” that California seems to have avoided for the present, in part because state tax revenues have been higher than expected, even without proposed tax extensions that the governor has so far been unable to bring to a vote.

If West Contra Costa Adult Education (WCCAE) indeed receives the same funding for two years in a row, it will certainly be a reprieve from the relentless yearly reductions in funding the adult school has been experiencing since 2009, when the state budget crisis hit.  The adult school has lost at least $1 million dollars yearly since 2009, and it’s $3 million reserve has been swept.  In 2009 the program had an operating budget of $5 million and the $3 million reserve.  In 2010-2011, the program had a $2.5 million operating budget and no reserve. So a loss of another million would have been truly devastating, possibly leaving the adult school with no other option but to close whole programs such as the Older Adult and Adults with Disabilities programs, whose closure has been considered more than once since the crisis began.

If the adult school is funded at current levels for the 2011-2012 year, it can continue to provide services at about the same level as this year, without significant further reductions.   Services for 2010-2011 are significantly reduced from pre-2009 levels; for example, before 2009, English as  a Second Language classes were offered for 2 1/2 to 3 hours per day, four or five days a week.  Now, most classes have been cut back to three days a week or less.  This is not insignificant, as recent research shows that 12 to 15 hours per week of instruction are optimal for language learning.  However, if the adult school is able to continue providing service at current levels instead of having to make further cuts, it will certainly be a positive development for adult school students and their communities. It will also represent one of the few hopeful developments in adult education in California.

Even if West Contra Costa Adult Education is able to maintain the same level of funding next year, adult education in California remains extremely vulnerable because, as one of the many gimmicks it used to cobble together the state budget agreement of 2009, the state legislature stripped away all protections for adult education funding.  As a result, Oakland Unified School District is in the process of devastating the last vestiges of its adult education program.  You can read more about it here:

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/adult-education-dismantled/Content?oid=2682700

Results of studies of fiscal flexibility (the practice of allowing districts to use funding previously allocated for specific programs in any way they see fit) are beginning to come in.  The following article notes that many districts responded to a state cut to their budget of 20% by cutting their adult education budgets 60%.  The article also points out that lower-achieving children tend to be disproportionately hurt by cuts to previously protected programs. 

 http://www.governing.com/blogs/view/Fiscal-Flexibility-Comes-at-a-Price.html

The following article notes that when districts balance their budgets by cutting adult education, they destroy an important engine for lifting individuals and communities out of poverty.

http://www.baycitizen.org/education/story/adult-education-latest-budget-victim/

The situation of adult education in California needs to be seen as part of a larger pattern of making the poor and people without political power pay all the costs of the economic downturn.  For every financial problem, those in power have only one solution: grind the poor.  This pattern should make all of us angry, and there is much to be done to turn it around.

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One Response

  1. Thank you so much for the rundown-and so beautifully written. Jan Mignaud

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