Assembly Budget Subcommittee 2 Hearing, April 8 2014

The California State Assembly Budget Subcommittee #2 (Education) held a hearing on April 8 regarding 4 issues: 1) Specialized Secondary Programs and Agricultural Education Incentive Grants; 2) Career Technical Education; 3) California Careers Pathways Trust; 4) Adult Education. What all the programs under discussion seem to have in common is that they were once categorical programs within K-12 schools, and now face an uncertain future under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). The LCFF is Governor Brown’s new funding formula for education, which eliminates most categorical funding in order to redistribute it according to the new formula, which awards additional money to districts with more students who are low income, English Language Learners, or in foster care.

Issue 1: Specialized Secondary and Agricultural Education

Specialized Secondary and Agricultural Education programs actually remain categorical for this year, but Governor Brown wants to roll them into the LCFF for next year. During the public comment period on this issue, long lines of young people from Future Farmers of America spoke to the importance of agricultural education in California, a state that grows about half the country’s food.

Issue 2: Career Technical Education

Career Technical Education (CTE) is now part of the LCFF, but, like K-12 adult schools, it is currently maintained by a Maintenance of Effort law. Maintenance of Effort requires school districts to fund the programs at the same level of funding that existed in 2012-2013, but the Maintenance of Effort ends in 2015. The Subcommittee was particularly concerned about the fate of Regional Occupational Centers (ROP), a program within CTE. Supporters of CTE argued that CTE programs are highly effective, and that their students have very high graduation rates and earning potential. However, the future of the programs is uncertain. One of the panelists who testified before the subcommittee pointed out that CTE is on the verge of collapse; enrollment has dropped, and California has lost about 1/5 of its CTE instructors. These losses are a direct result of reductions in funding.

The subcommittee voted to support CTE and Agricultural Education programs. For a more extended treatment of the proceedings related to Agricultural Education and CTE, see this EdSource article:

http://edsource.org/2014/assembly-subcommittee-pledges-to-fight-for-career-technical-education/60727

Issue 4: Adult Education

No vote was taken regarding adult education. This portion of the hearing was informational only.

Panel 1: Paul Steenhausen, Legislative Analyst’s Office; Mario Rodriguez, Department of Finance; Debra Jones, California Community College Chancellor’s Office; Monique Ramos, Department of Education.

Paul Steenhausen of the Legislative Analyst’s Office pointed out that adult schools, run by school districts, and community colleges are the main providers of adult education in California. Mr. Steenhausen gave a history of the current state of funding for adult schools: adult schools were funded as a categorical program until 2009, when their funding was flexed during the budget crisis. Due to categorical flexibility, only 40 to 50% of the $635 million previously dedicated to adult schools has been spent on adult education in recent years.

According to Mr. Steenhausen, one of the strengths of California’s adult education system is that there are two large organizations, adult schools and community colleges, with extensive experience providing education to adults. One of the main problems with the system is that adult schools and community colleges do not collaborate.

Mario Rodriguez of the Department of Finance stated that there is no proposal for funding adult schools in the 2014-2015 budget, but there is a commitment to supporting the current consortium planning process. (Note: The consortia are a new model for adult education in which community colleges and adult schools collaborate to form an adult education plan for their region. Money for the consortia will be channeled through the community college budget).

Debra Jones, of the California Community College Chancellor’s Office, reported on the progress of the consortium planning process. All community colleges and adult schools have now entered into consortia. There were originally 72 consortia, but two consortia merged with other consortia, so there are now 70.

Ms. Jones noted that one of the most important tasks of the consortia now will be to identify gaps in service in their region and to make a plan to address the gaps. She also stated that the two systems, adult schools and community colleges, are getting to know more about each other and developing a respect and understanding for what each system does.

When questioned by committee members as to whether there was conflict within the consortia, Ms. Jones stated that the process is difficult, but it is working.

Committee members asked if there was any need for more direction from the state as to what is to be done. There was some discussion regarding the need to resolve conflicting state level policies. For example, a community college offering a Certified Nursing Assistant course could offer the course as a credit course for $46 per unit. If the community college offered the same course as a non-credit course, the course would have to be free. An adult school could charge whatever it wanted for the same course, up to the full cost of instruction.

It was also noted during the discussion that, while school districts are required, under the Maintenance of Effort law, to continue spending the same amount on their adult schools as they spent in 2012-2013 for this year and the coming school year, there is no significant state monitoring of maintenance of effort by school districts.

Assembly Member Philip Ting commented that K-12 adult schools are more accessible than community colleges, and that it is important to preserve them.

Panel 2: Dr. Bob Harper, Director of Campbell Adult and Community Education, Campbell Union High School District; Jarek Janio, Faculty Coordinator, Santa Ana College Centennial Education Center

Dr. Harper commented that adult schools need more clarity and direction from the state regarding funding. He said that the Board of Trustees in his district is very committed to adult education, but don’t know what to expect in 2015-2016. It is hard for districts to plan with this level of uncertainty.

When asked if the fact that the consortia will be funded through the community colleges biases the collaboration between community colleges and adult schools, Dr. Harper pointed out that in some consortia the adult school is actually the fiscal agent. However, he did say that, in his experience as the director of an adult school, the fact that the money comes through the community colleges does, in fact, bias the collaboration.

Public Comment:

As compared to the public comment on Agricultural Education and CTE, the public comment on adult education was brief, with only a few speakers. While none of the panelists mentioned the way the consortia “narrow the mission” of adult education by excluding Older Adult, Parent Education, Health and Safety and Home Economics from the consortia, several advocates for these programs spoke during public comment, including a speaker from the community colleges who said the community colleges need to be able to keep “all nine” programs. One speaker from the community colleges said that money for the consortia should come through the community colleges, because community colleges have experience coordinating between credit and noncredit programs.

 

Commentary:

Consortium Planning Process

It is good to hear, through Debra Jones testimony, that all 72 regions that were eligible to enter into consortia have done so. Some adult education advocates were concerned that, because community colleges are under no obligation to enter into consortia, there might be adult schools that would be unable to find consortium partners. Since all money for adult education will come through the community colleges starting in 2015-2016, at least according to current plans, any adult schools unable to find a partnering community college might have had to close for lack of funds. Apparently all existing adult schools are now safely within consortia, so that scenario is no longer a concern.

The issue of state approval of consortium plans still remains. Each consortium plan must be approved by the state. What happens if the state finds a consortium plan lacking and refuses to approve it? How many chances would a consortium have to revise its plan in order to gain approval? The timeline for the consortia is quite short, so chances are there won’t be many opportunities to revise and resubmit plans.

In that scenario, once again, the adult schools within the consortia suffer while the community colleges within it will not really be affected. Community colleges will continue to receive their funding, even if their consortium plan is not approved. But adult schools cannot receive funding, at least under current plans, if they are not in a consortium.

Gaps in Service

Debra Jones noted that one of the important tasks of the newly formed consortia will be to identify gaps in service and make a plan to address them. Ironically, the legislation that establishes the consortia automatically creates gaps by excluding Parent Education, Older Adult, Health and Safety and Home Economics programs from the consortium planning process. This feature of the AB86 legislation cannot help but leave large numbers of adults without services traditionally provided by adult schools and community colleges. The state will then pay the consortia to look for other, previously unknown gaps, and plan a way to fill them. But the consortia will not be able to address the known gaps that will be created by cancelling the excluded programs.

An Unequal Collaboration

The subcommittee asked Dr. Harper if the fact that the funding for the consortium will be coming through the community colleges distorts the collaboration process that is central to the consortia. Dr. Harper’s frank answer, that it cannot help but do so, should set off alarm bells. This is the first time, to my knowledge, that a legislative body has brought up what should be an obvious issue: the lack of independent funding for adult schools puts adult schools in a “one down” position when negotiating with the community colleges, who have their own dedicated funding. If the state wants the consortia to be healthy, well functioning bodies, this kind of inequality should be the last thing they want. The state needs to look seriously at ways to put adult schools on a more equal footing with community colleges. Dedicated funding of their own would be a good start.

Dr. Harper pointed out, correctly, that in some consortia the adult school will be the fiscal agent. However, the actual money for the consortia will come through the community college budget. Even if an adult school is the banker for these funds, they still come through the community colleges, not through K-12 school districts. Adult schools will still be connected to K-12 districts, somehow, but all money for their operation will come through the community colleges, via the consortia.

During public comment, someone from the community colleges said that the money should come through the community colleges, because community colleges have experience moving money between credit and noncredit programs. She neglected to say that only 17 of California’s 100 plus community colleges even have noncredit programs. The decision to direct the money through the community colleges has nothing to do with experience or fitness for the job. It was just a way to clean up K-12 budgets, getting rid of as many categorical as possible to make way for the LCFF.

No One Is Safe

Watching the long lines of Future Farmers of America and CTE students pleading for their programs made me think of discussions we adult education advocates had back when categorical flexibility first raised its ugly head. Remember those? CTE is safe, we used to say. It’s job preparation, everyone loves that. High School Diploma is safe; school districts need it to serve kids who drop out of high school. ESL is safe; how can immigration reform work without it?

How wrong we were. Future farmers and future engineers can tell us: no one is safe. Oakland doesn’t have High School Diploma anymore. We learned at this hearing that CTE is devastated. Older adult, Parent Education, Health and Safety and Home Economics programs are the most at risk now, but we can’t take anything for granted. It’s good to know the consortia are starting to pick up the pieces, and it looks like they will, but you can’t count on preserving anything you don’t fight for, which brings us to …

Next Hearing

Senate Budget Committee #1

Tuesday,  April 29

9:00 AM

State Capitol, Rm 3191

(Note: This hearing was originally scheduled for April 24, but was rescheduled)

There weren’t many adult school supporters at the April 8 hearing, so let’s get many to the next one.

For more information about the April 8 and April 29 hearings, see the following Adult Education Matters blog post:

http://adulteducationmatters.blogspot.com/2014/04/april-2014-budget-hearings.html

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