Letter re SB 173

Re: SB 173: Oppose unless amended to include Older Adult and Parent Education programs within AB 86

Dear Senator Liu and Assembly Member Williams,

I regret to say that I cannot support SB 173 unless it is amended to include Older Adult and Parent Education programs within AB 86. I am also troubled by the fact that the bill provides for charging fees for programs like High School Diploma and English as a Second Language that are currently mandated by law to be offered free. Though the laws providing that these classes must be offered free have been temporarily suspended, they have not been repealed. I question why California would abandon a historic commitment to basic literacy by charging fees for these classes. I also think that any legislation directing the Department of Education and the Community College Chancellor’s Office to create policy regarding the use of a single student identifier should stipulate that the identifier should not be a Social Security Number, which would be a barrier for students without documents.

I want to support SB 173. If passed, it would establish legislative intent to consider allocating base adult education funds on the basis of needs, enrollment and outcome for certain courses. K-12 adult schools desperately need some assurance, however slight, that there will be funding for them in the future. However, my opposition to SB 173 is based on its exclusion of Older Adult and Parent Education programs from funding, and it continues to have that effect. While the bill no longer amends Section 41976 of Education Code to remove the programs from the list of adult school courses that can receive funding by the state, it excludes them in Section 3, paragraph (5) by providing that the legislature can only consider allocating funding for adult schools on the basis of courses offered pursuant to Section 84830 and Section 84757 paragraphs (2) to (6). Section 84830 is the legislation that creates the consortia, and the consortia still exclude Older Adult and Parent Education programs. By limiting the sections of 84757 to paragraphs (2) to (6), the bill also excludes funding for Older Adult and Parent Education programs within non-credit community college programs.

The fate of the Family Literacy centers in Los Angeles, now threatened with closure, should serve as a warning as to the instability of programs funded with grant money. This has been proposed as a viable solution for Older Adult and Parent Education programs, but it has not worked out well for the centers, which are a partnership between LAUSD and First Five. The centers did everything right. They conducted an eight year study that found them to be highly effective. Some of the classes they offer, ESL and GED, are within AB 86. It did not matter once First Five pulled out. LAUSD planned to close them, and they very well may close. Grant and foundation funding is not as stable as state funding. The state needs to reinstate Parent Education and Older Adult programs as priorities and fund them.

As to charging fees, it worries me in several ways. While the bill stipulates that fees “should not create a barrier” to student access, for some students there is no fee worth charging that would not be a barrier. Charging fees costs money; you have to pay personnel to handle the fees. A fee that is too low will not pay for the employee that handles the paperwork and money. Also, I have noticed that, when deciding how much to charge, middle class notions of what is “affordable” are imposed on the poor. A fee that looks reasonable to someone with a healthy income may be an insurmountable barrier to someone who is struggling. Also, fees, once established, have a tendency to climb. This certainly happened with the community colleges, which used to be very affordable, but are now out of reach for some.

Please save Older Adult and Parent Education programs. Please keep basic literacy classes like High School Diploma, Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language free. If I am asking you to do this in a way that does not work legislatively, please forgive me. I am just a citizen asking for what is best for the state. Find a way to save these programs. The evidence that Older Adult and Parent Education programs are effective keeps mounting all the time. California needs to include them in its priorities.

Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely,

Kristen Pursley

CC:      Assembly Member Scott Wilk

Assembly Member Shirley N. Weber

Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silver

Assembly Member Kristin Olsen

Assembly Member Joe Medina

Assembly Member Marc Levine

Assembly Member Eric Linder

Assembly Member Steve Fox

Assembly Member Paul Fong

Assembly Member Richard Bloom

Assembly Member Rocky Chavez

Assembly Member Reginald Jones-Sawyer

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