A Fiscally Sound Choice: Keeping Older Adult and Parent Education Programs within the Core of Adult Education

The California Legislative Analyst’s Office and the State Strategic Plan for Adult Education have both recommended “narrowing the mission” of adult education to eliminate state funding for Parent Education programs and programs for Older Adults. SB 173, if passed as written, would end state funding for Parent Education and Older Adult classes in both adult schools and community colleges by law.  The rationale is economic; policy makers argue that the state must concentrate its resources on workforce preparation.  However, the elimination of Older Adult and Parent Education programs is a false economy. These programs are cost effective and save the state money.  Maintaining these programs is sound fiscal policy, for the following reasons

1. Both Older Adult and Parent Education programs offer services that can save lives.  Parent Education programs offer Gang Prevention classes  that can change the course of a child’s life and Anger Management classes that can keep families together.  Older Adult programs offer a vital social network for seniors which protects their health.  Classes for seniors in how to avoid falls prevents one of the most common causes of elders having to enter costly institutional living situations and losing their independence.  Older adult and Parent Education classes are not frills.

2.   Cutting education programs for seniors will actually increase costs to the state.  A 2002  medical study concluded that seniors who participated in physically, mentally and socially stimulating programs such as adult education programs offer contracted dementia at an 18% lower rate than seniors who did not participate in such programs (American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 155, no.12, June 15, 2002). Recent studies in England, Wales and Denmark bear out this conclusion. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/17/health/study-finds-dip-in-dementia-rates.html?_r=0

Investing in low cost adult education classes that have been proven to reduce dementia rates will produce substantial savings for the state, especially  as the number of Californians over the age of 65 grows.

3.  Older Adult programs support seniors in volunteer efforts that provide significant value to their communities. In West Contra Costa County, 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. Because hundreds of adult school and community college programs for active seniors around California produce similar results, the state stands to lose millions of dollars in volunteer contributions by cancelling funding for these programs. The loss in volunteer contributions might well exceed the $22 million the state will supposedly save by cancelling funding for Older Adult  programs.          

4. Parent Education programs  produce significant savings to the state as well.  A study by the Zero to Three Policy Center determined that  effective early childhood programs, of which parent education is a key component, produced savings of $3.78 to $17.07 for every dollar spent. Savings came in the form of outcomes such as better school retention, improved earnings, and crime reduction (Lurie-Hurvitz, E. (2009) Early Experiences Matter: Making the case for a comprehensive infant and toddler policy agenda. Zero to Three Policy Center).

5. Parent Education programs are a promising strategy for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty. Recent advances in neuroscience, molecular biology and behavioral science indicate that helping parents develop skills that make them better parents and better workers is an effective way to support low-income children and help them escape from poverty. (Comment by              Jack  P. Shonkoff of Harvard University on the forum “Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity” http://www.spotlightonpoverty.org/ExclusiveCommentary.aspx?id=7a0f1142-f33b-40b8-82eb-73306f86fb74

6. It is more expensive to create a new program than to revise or expand an existing one.  Existing adult school programs for seniors and parents are low cost and work well for their students.  The state needs to provide services for older adults, parents and young children. It makes good financial sense to build on existing programs that work, rather than tearing down needed programs only to rebuild them elsewhere.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: