Oppose AB 18, Another Threat to Adult Education

Adult schools in California have been struggling to survive since the budget crisis of 2009, when the legislature enacted a budget which allowed school districts to “flex” funding for categorical programs, including adult education, in order to partially mitigate the effects of cuts to K-12 education enacted by the same 2009 budget.  Flexibility was originally supposed to sunset in 2013.  Governor Jerry Brown, in spite of his stated opposition to budget gimmicks (which  ” flexibility” certainly is, a classic example of robbing Peter to pay Paul), extended the sunset date until 2015.  Since 2009, thousands of adults who needed English as a Second Language classes, job training, a second chance at a high school diploma, or life skills classes for adults with disabilities have lost services, while whole communities have been deprived of an important springboard of economic growth and recovery.  Adult school students, teachers and supporters are fighting hard to keep adult education alive  until 2015, when they hope the state will come up with a better deal for adult students.  But AB 18 (Brownley) , a bill which  will be heard in  the Senate Education Committee on July 6, proposes to make things even worse in 2015 and beyond.

The following analysis of the relevant part of the bill is from www.aroundthecapitol.com:

Existing law establishes various public education programs pursuant to which funds are allocated by the state to local educational agencies.

This bill would establish Targeted Pupil Equity funding, pursuant to which, commencing with the 2015–16 fiscal year and each fiscal year thereafter, the Superintendent of Public Instruction would apportion supplemental funds to school districts and charter schools, in accordance with a prescribed formula, for any educational purpose that provides instruction or support services to English learners and low-income pupils, with the goal of improving the academic performance or workforce preparation of those pupils.

This bill would also establish Quality Instruction funding, pursuant to which, commencing with the 2015–16 fiscal year and each fiscal year thereafter, the Superintendent would apportion funds to school districts and charter schools, in accordance with a prescribed formula, for any of several specified purposes, including the reduction of class sizes, the provision of professional development training to school personnel, the provision of leadership coaching and individualized support to schoolsite staff, the provision of mentoring or coaching in order to support beginning teachers, the establishment of teacher recruitment programs that provide professional development assistance to paraprofessionals in order for them to obtain teaching credentials, the establishment of intern programs to provide an alternative route for individuals to obtain teaching credentials, and the provision of support for beginning teacher support and assessment.

Adult education is one of the “various public education programs pursuant to which funds are allocated by the state to local educational agencies.”  AB 18 would replace this system with supplemental funds that could be used by districts  “for any educational purpose that provides instruction or support services to English learners and low-income pupils”.   This bill simply eliminates adult education by ommission.  One could make an argument that adult education, in at least some of its functions (such as English as a Second Language instruction for parents) provides “support services for English learners or low-income pupils,”  and on this basis portions of adult education programs might still be able to make a case for their continued existence.  However, the difficulty of convincing districts to fund adult education under these conditions would make the bitter struggles of the last few years look like a picnic.

The California legislature is systematically destroying a 155 year institution – a low cost and effective program on which millions of Californians, especially low income and vulnerable Californians rely.  And they are doing this without ever mentioning Adult Education by name.  Its death is hidden if layers of bureaucratese, in phrases like “flexibility”, “categorical programs”, and “various public education programs.”  It is always lumped in with lots of other unidentified programs so that its individual merits are never debated.  This is shameful, cowardly behavior by the California legislature.  They ought to at least come out and say honestly what they are doing.

By essentially putting all supplemental funding into the form of a block grant, as AB 18 does, instead of designating particular programs that districts must fund, the state is also abandoning any state priorities for education. There are reasons governments set educational priorities, and the abandonment of these priorities is of particular concern for residents of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD).  Congressman George Miller  recently articulated the reasons  state and federal governments set educational priorities  at a meeting of West Contra Costa’s Concilio Latino.  The context was a discussion of a Republican attack on federal education priorities, but the principle applies to state priorities as well.  Congressman Miller said that the consequences of  removing restrictions on how districts can use monies, especially in districts like WCCUSD, which serve both low income and well to do areas, are well known to legislators: with no limits on how they may spend the money, districts siphon money out of low income communities and direct it to the high income neighborhoods.

The congressman’s observation is born out by a recent article regarding the results of studies of the effects of fiscal flexibility in California.  One of the findings of thses studies was  that lower-achieving children tend to be disproportionately hurt by cuts to previously protected programs. Click on the link below to see the article.

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

California Council for Adult Education (CCAE) is opposed to AB 18. Hopefully other groups will also come out against it soon.  A sample letter to send to  state senators and other elected officials prepared by CCAE appears below:

ROUGH DRAFT OF AB 18 OPPOSITION LETTER

Dear State Senator…………………….:

I (We) oppose AB 18 because it would eliminate Adult Education as a specific program meeting the education needs of adults and out-of-school youth pursuing diplomas and employment training. Our program is important because………here describe your program and why it is valuable.

Some suggested topics: Number of students served, number gaining high school diplomas or passing GEDs, number earning career training certification, and other items unique to your program. Describe what happens if Adult Education is eliminated in your community.

Our opposition would be removed if Adult Education is exempted from  AB 18.

———————————————————————————————————-

Recommendations on mailing letter and sending copies :

  • Mail letters to members of the Senate Education Committee (see attachment). If one overlaps your Adult Education program, focus on that Senate Education committee member.
  • Address letters to: State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814
  • Also send copies to the following individuals:
    • Assemblyman Tony Mendoza, Chair, Latino Caucus
    • Assemblyman Warren Furutani, Chair, Asian-Pacific Islander Caucus
    • State Senator Curren Price, Chair, Black Caucus
    • State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torklason (different address: 1430 N Street, Sacramento, CA 95814)

Click on th following link for a list of senators and other elected officials:

Senator’s Info

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