In January, Governor Brown released a proposed 2017-2018 budget that, once again, fails to provide any additional money for California’s adult schools. The amount of the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG), which now provides the only state funding for adult schools, is still $500 million, the same amount that was provided when the block grant was created two years ago. Of the $500 million provided by the AEBG, only $350 million is earmarked for adult schools. The state spent $750 million on adult schools before the financial crash of 2008. If the budget passes with the amount of the AEBG unchanged, 2017-2018 will mark the ninth year that adult schools have gone without an increase in their state funding, which is their largest and most important source of funding. Of those nine years, 6 were years of cuts and steep declines in funding; since 2013, adult school funding has held the line at the low and deeply inadequate level of funding adult schools reached after the 6 years of cuts.
Now is the time to write to Governor Brown and our state legislators to request a much-needed increase in adult school funding. Between now and the governor’s May revise of the budget, Sacramento will be engaged in negotiations about what the final budget will be. We need to let our elected officials know that the current level of funding for adult schools is inadequate and puts the adult education system, and the Californians it serves, at risk.
Understandably, the governor has adopted a very cautious budget to prepare for uncertain times ahead under new federal leadership, an uncertainty made greater by California’s commitment to protect its immigrant population in the face of threatened retaliation by the federal government. However, adult schools are an important piece of the infrastructure California will need to protect and support its immigrant population through the difficult years ahead. Since their founding in the mid-nineteenth century, California’s adult schools have had service to the immigrant community as a key part of their mission, and they still provide the bulk of English as a Second Language instruction in the state. They are gathering places where immigrants find a community, receive support, access services and learn to participate in civic life in the United States. The immigrants most in need of protection, those without documents, rely on adult schools for educational services, as most of them cannot afford the expensive out-of-state tuition they have to pay at community colleges. To truly support these immigrants, you have to support their education.
Adult schools provide crucial services for other marginalized populations as well, providing basic literacy and a second chance at a high school diploma for adults who, for whatever reason, were unable to attain those things as children. They offer support for adults with disabilities and seniors. Adult schools serve all the vulnerable groups of people who will be most hurt by proposed cuts to federal programs.
For this reason, it is vital that adult schools survive. Because of chronic underfunding for the last eight years, they are vulnerable to being swept away in the financial chaos that may well come. California should have been providing adult schools with adequate funding when times were good. Now that we face a challenging future, the state must somehow find the money to protect this valuable resource.
Please write a letter to Governor Brown today and request more funding for adult schools. You can use the template below. Please feel free to adapt the language and be sure to insert any information about your own experience with adult schools and why you think they are valuable.
Don’t forget to send a copy to your legislators; the budget is to a certain extent in their hands now. You can find your state legislators here:
Here is a template for a letter:
Governor Jerry Brown
C/O State Capitol,
Sacramento, CA 95814
Dear Governor Brown,
I am writing to request that funding for California’s adult schools be increased through an increase in the Adult Education Block Grant for the 2017-2018 year. California’s adult schools have been underfunded for eight years, and are the only branch of education that did not receive an increase last year. Due to chronic underfunding, adult schools are in danger of being swept away by the next financial crisis. It is crucial that the state assure the survival of this invaluable resource during the uncertain years ahead.
Adult schools serve the vulnerable adults who are most likely to be hurt by many of the proposed changes to federal policy: poor people, immigrants, people with low levels of literacy, the disabled and seniors. If California is to defend these marginalized people, as it has bravely pledged to do, it must protect the institutions that serve them. They must be able to participate to the fullest extent in the economic and civic life of the state, in order to be strong themselves and to keep the state strong. Adult schools are a key resource to help them fulfill their potential.
I respectfully request that the amount of the Adult Education Block Grant be increased for 2017-2018.
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