Open Letter to California Governor Gavin Newsom re Adult School Funding

ASTU

Adult School Teachers United

P.O. Box 1115

11135 SAN pABLO AVE.

EL CERRITO, CA 94530-9998

 

Governor Gavin Newsom

C/O State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

Dear Governor Newsom:

Adult School Teachers United, representing adult school teachers in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, respectfully urges you to include increased funding for California’s adult schools in the 2019-2020 budget. We applaud the increases in spending on education in the proposed budget, particularly the increase in spending on the youngest children. However, we were very disappointed to see that there was no increase in funding for adult schools, which are severely underfunded and have not received an increase in funding since 2008. California’s adult schools provide basic literacy and low-cost job training for the most vulnerable adults in the state: immigrants who need to learn English, adults who need to earn a high school diploma or the equivalent, and adults with disabilities. Our students are frequently low-income because their lack of basic literacy shuts them out of better paying jobs. Because job prospects for our students improve dramatically as they reach their potential, an adequately funded, thriving adult school system is key to the economic health of the state. Adult schools also provide an important support for children, especially children in low-income families, because as parents become more educated, outcomes for their children improve in a variety of ways.

California has a vast need for adult education that has never been met. According to the last U.S. Census, about 5.3 million adults in California, about one-fifth of the population, are in need of basic literacy services. In the best of times, California’s adult school and community college systems combined have only served about 1.5 million. During the Great Recession, both adult schools and community colleges lost funding, and both systems lost capacity to serve adult students. Adult schools were particularly hard hit; some closed their doors entirely. Since 2013, funding for community colleges has been restored, while funding for adult schools, which were even harder hit by the recession, has remained flat. The failure to increase funding for adult schools has not only prevented them from regaining their former capacity, but also locked in inequities because adult schools in low-income communities were frequently hit harder by cuts than adult schools in more affluent areas. For example, before 2008 Oakland had an adult school system that served 25,000 students. They had several adult school buildings in different parts of the city, enabling them to serve students in the neighborhoods where students lived, worked, or sent their students to school. Oakland currently has 11 classes and shares a building with a high school. They have never been able to restore even a fraction of their capacity.

California needs a robust adult school system. Not every community is close to a community college, but every community has a school district and thus the capacity to have an adult school. California has a large immigrant population that needs to master the English language. Adult schools have been providing English language instruction for immigrants since the 1850s, and still provide more English language instruction than credit and non-credit community colleges combined. Adult school teachers are professionals who must earn a credential in order to teach. We know how to do the job and have been doing it for a long time. We need adequate funding that matches the importance of our contributions.

Since 2013, state funding for adult schools has been distributed to the Adult Education Consortia. A portion of the consortium funding was dedicated to the adult schools in the consortium, based on what adult schools were receiving from their districts in 2013. This is the amount that needs to be increased. Our community college consortium partners have funding independent of the consortium; in fact, the vast majority of their funding is not tied to the consortium. But adult schools are almost entirely dependent on the consortium funding, and their portion never gets an increase. This is an untenable situation, as costs keep going up, and the adult schools continue to lose capacity as they struggle to keep up with rising expenses. In order to be true partners with the community colleges, adult schools need that measure of security and autonomy that comes with adequate and fair funding.

Adult schools could be doing so much more for the state of California with improved funding. A 2011 California Department of Education study found that the return on investment in adult education included not only economic benefits for the state and individuals, but also increased civic engagement including improved voting levels, more immigrants attaining U.S. citizenship, improved individual and family health, reduced recidivism and improvements in children’s education. These are all improvements that will contribute to stronger, more vibrant communities and, in the end, save the state money. Please consider increasing funding for California’s adult schools and unlocking our potential to bring the benefits of adult education to the state.

Sincerely

Adult School Teachers United

 

Kristen Pursley, President

CC:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond

Senator Nancy Skinner

Assembly Member Buffy Wicks

 

One Response

  1. Thanks for articulating the case, Kristen! A new Governor and solid super-majority of Dems in the legislature; there’s a real opportunity to see what can happen with a focused effort this session to make the case for the critical importance of adult schools. I think any communication to this new Gov should point out the research on the benefit of inter-generational education for marginalized families – something that adult schools have capacity to do, and these inter-generational programs were axed in the Great Recession. Also, with AB2098 and immigrant integration goals specified in Ed Code, we need more $ to expand our supports for immigrants. More than just asking for more $, I think our ask might be tied to “added value” that “added funding” would achieve.

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