An Article that Gets it Right about Adult Schools: Flat Funding Is a Disaster for Sweetwater Adult Education and All California Adult Schools

The following article about drastic cuts at Sweetwater Adult School accurately describes a funding crisis that affects all California adult schools. “Flat state funding” that has been “frozen at recession era levels”, as described in the article, is the problem, and, as the director of Sweetwater explains in the article, the flat funding actually functions as a cut that gets worse every year. Considering that adult school funding fell precipitously from 2009 to 2013, and then froze at 2013 levels, all adult schools are struggling to pay the bills as costs rise and their funding stays the same. If something is not done soon, there may be many Sweetwaters.

Note that Sweetwater is having to cut its classes by 10% even though its district, Sweetwater Union High School District, is devoting some funding to the adult school. Without the district’s assistance, the adult school program would have to be cut by 25%. Not all districts are willing to devote some of their funding to help out their adult schools. The Board of Education at the adult school where I teach, West Contra Costa Unified, has voted not to give the adult school any money to supplement the inadequate state funding the adult school receives.

This needs to be an election issue in California. The governor and the legislature broke adult schools, and only they can fix it. There is an election coming up next year. Find out what your representative’s position on adult schools is. Let your representatives know you care about it, and that the status quo is not working. Ask about it at candidates’ forums. Find out what gubernatorial candidates think about adult education. Write letters and make phone calls letting your representatives know that what is happening at Sweetwater is unacceptable, and that it is up to them to make sure this doesn’t happen to more adult schools.

Thanks to KPBS news for a great article, which you can read here:


‘Slow Strangulation’ Of Adult Ed Will Mean 1,000 Fewer Students For Sweetwater

Monday, June 26, 2017

By Megan Burks

Photo by Matthew Bowler / KPBS

Above: Students practice checking one another’s blood pressure in a career-technical class at San Ysidro Adult School, part of Sweetwater Adult Education, April 27, 2017.

The Sweetwater Union High School District is expected to approve its budget of more than $450 million Monday. The district has largely averted cuts, but its adult program will have to serve a thousand fewer students next year.

Sweetwater Adult School is cutting its classes by 10 percent. They include parenting, English-language, citizenship and career-technical courses. The budget gap reflects years of flat state funding for adult education and rising pension costs.

“It’s like a slow strangulation of the program,” Sweetwater Adult Education Director Ryan Burke said. “Everything costs more, so one by one we’re having to cut classes to pay the bills.”

RELATED: Proposed Rule Change For Adult ESL Classes Could Impact Children

Sweetwater Union has used its general fund to backfill some of the need, and is expected to do the same next year. Burke said without the district’s help, a quarter of classes would have to go.

“Yes the district is able to help and they are helping. But they’re also responsible for paying for (middle and high school) education,” Burke said. “Any dollar they commit to us is another dollar they don’t have for 7-12.”

Adult education funding has been frozen at recession-era levels as the legislature and schools work to restructure the system, which developed as a patchwork across K-12 districts and community colleges. Advocates like Burke say it is time to look at funding again.

“The Division of Adult Education provides a safety net to families who need a GED or need to improve their English skills to get their first job or look for a better job,” said teacher Erica Dibello-Hitta. “They also offer short-term career classes that are much more affordable than those at private colleges. A loss of any classes would hurt our community.”

Federal funding makes up a much smaller portion of adult school funding but could also be in jeopardy. President Donald Trump has said he’d like to cut career-technical education by $168 million. The House this week passed a generous reauthorization bill for career-technical education spending. It’s unclear if it will pass the Senate, or if the president would sign it.


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