SB 173 Hearing Monday — Save Older Adult, Parent Education, Family Literacy and Adults with Disabilities Programs

SB 173 (Liu) will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday, May 13.  If passed as written, SB 173 will eliminate state funding for adult school  Older Adult and Parent Education classes, and possibly Family Literacy classes as well.  At this time, the bill appears to fund Adults with Disabilities programs, but a previous version of the bill defunded those programs also.

 If these classes, which primarily serve vulnerable adults, are to be funded entirely with student fees, many of the students who need the classes most will be unable to fund them.  Please let your senators know that these programs serve California residents well, are cost effective, and should continue to receive state funding so that they can be available to all Californians.

You can read the text of the bill here:

http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140SB173

The members of the Senate Appropriations Committee are:

Senator Kevin de León (Chair)
Senator Mimi Walters (Vice Chair)
Senator Ted Gaines
Senator Jerry Hill
Senator Ricardo Lara
Senator Alex Padilla
Senator Darrell Steinberg

We need to let our legislators know why these programs are valuable. Some of the reasons follow.

The California Department of Education’s 2011 “Linking Adults to Opportunity” report on adult education has an excellent section on the “ripple effects” of adult education.  These effects included better community health, greater school success for children, stronger families, and reduced recidivism. Adult school programs for older adults and adults with disabilities, along with parent education and family literacy classes, contribute to these “ripple effects” just as much  as workforce preparation,  programs, and perhaps more.  The state of California should continue to fund these programs, so that our communities can continue to reap the benefits.

Older Adults:

Active older adults, no longer in the workforce, need the social, intellectual and physical stimulation and emotional support provided by senior centers.  The elimination of these cost-effective programs will cost the state money in the long run, as elders will need other, more expensive, state services such as nursing home care much sooner without these services.  California’s population of seniors will increase in the coming years, and other services for seniors are being cut. These programs are needed now more than ever.

Older Adult programs  keep seniors active and giving back to their communities.  In West Contra Costa, two of the senior centers surveyed their students about how many hours they volunteer for the schools.  With only about half of the students responding, the students reported volunteering about 6,463 hours to programs that included the Read Aloud and Writer Coach Connection programs  in the K-12 schools.  The U.S. Department of Labor values volunteer hours at about $11.88 per hour.  That means seniors at just these two senior centers volunteered $76,780 worth of labor.  The school district would be thrilled to get a grant in that amount, but because it is volunteer labor by seniors, they are not even aware  they have this resource.

Frail Elders programs will be particularly affected by the loss of state funding.  The very name of this program indicates that the program serves a vulnerable population that deserves protection.  Frail elders have transportation issues and need services near their homes.  They also have very limited financial resources.  If their local senior centers close, they will not be able to access other services, and if the state ceases to finance their programs, they will not be able to pay enough in fees to support the programs.  Frail elders programs have already suffered greatly during Categorical Flexibility, and the effects of the cuts to these programs have been particularly cruel.

Defunding adult school programs for older adults and frail elders  is cruel, unnecessary, and discriminatory. These students will be losing state funding for their programs simply because of their age.  The elimination of the program will also affect women disproportionately.  Because women live longer, the majority of the students in the program are women.

The San Francisco Chronicle recently published an article on the plight of Older Adult programs. The link is here:  http://www.sfchronicle.com/education/article/Lawmakers-may-slash-adult-ed-classes-4470922.php

Parent Education and Family Literacy

Parent Education and Family Literacy programs support the mission of the K-12 schools, and can be an important intervention for the very low income and English Language Learner children the governor’s Local Control Funding Formula seeks to help.  Parent Education and Family Literacy classes at K-12  schools are part of the Full Service Community Schools model that is gaining traction in California.

Parent education includes such serious services as court-ordered classes for parents in family law proceedings.  In low-income areas especially, classes on how to keep children out of gangs are in high demand.   Parent education classes can also help parents and children benefit from the latest research on how children learn, and can improve family relationships. Parent education classes should be expanded, not eliminated.  Low-income adults need parent education classes as much as more well to do parents, perhaps more, as families in poverty often face greater challenges.  But if parent education classes are to be funded by fees alone, many parents will be unable to afford them.

Family literacy is a key way that adult education programs support K-12, and when adult schools plead with school boards not to completely close their programs, the service provided to the district by family literacy programs was one of the most persuasive arguments they had.  When large numbers of adult school students came to school board meetings, it was often the students in family literacy programs that made up the majority of the crowd.  Adult education students who told school boards they were in school to help their children with their homework were family literacy students.

Research has shown conclusively that the education level of a child’s parents, particularly the mother, is the greatest indicator of a child’s school success, trumping even socio-economic factors in importance.  Improving the literacy level of parents is one of the most effective investments California can make in the success of its school children.  Family literacy programs support workforce preparation of children by giving them a better chance in school, and can also lead to parents eventually training for and successfully entering the workforce.  Parents, usually mothers, often begin a family literacy class with the goal of helping their children, but later decide to train for a job or enter higher education as their own academic achievement advances and they gain confidence.

Family literacy programs typically serve low-income parents in Title I schools. Title I schools are schools where more than 50% of the children are eligible for a free or reduced price lunch.  The parents in the Family Literacy classes are the parents who cannot afford to buy their children lunch.  They would not be able to pay fees high enough to support the classes with fees alone.

 

Adults with Disabilities

Currently, programs for adults with disabilities consist of classes that help disabled adults prepare for and stay in the workforce, as well as programs that help more profoundly disabled adults care for themselves and function better as community members.  Without these programs, adults who are currently working and supporting themselves might not be able to keep their jobs, and all disabled adults who currently rely on these programs would not be able to care for themselves as well.  These programs are a low-cost and effective way to support disabled adults, and without them, more expensive services will be needed.  Disabled adults who are able to work with the assistance of their adult education programs have very limited resources; adults too profoundly disabled to work have less.  They would not be able to pay fees high enough to support their adult education programs.

Conclusion

 Adult school Older Adult, Adults with Disabilities, Parent Education and Family Literacy serve Californians well and play a vital role in creating healthy communities in the state.  Defunding these programs would destroy a valuable infrastructure that has supported California communities for decades. These programs should be preserved and strengthened.

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