“Now It’s More Important Than Ever for Us to Learn English”: The Role of Adult Schools in Protecting Immigrant Rights in California

The day after the presidential election I met with my stunned Citizenship class, and together we tried to sort out what had happened.  I explained the electoral college in much more detail than they would need to pass their naturalization interviews, and they told me, and each other, about the harassment and bullying that was already increasing.  As miserable as we all felt, their determination to persevere was inspiring.  Towards the end of the discussion, one of them said, “Now it’s more important than ever for us to learn English.”

I was a bit surprised by this remark; somehow that idea had not occurred to me. But it seemed to be obvious to all of the students.  As I watched them nod in agreement, I realized that it made perfect sense. On one level, they might have been hoping that eventually learning English would help them to be more accepted by U.S. society.  But in a more immediate sense, they needed English so they could be accutely aware of what was going on around them, and to be able to defend themselves if necessary. Now as always, for immigrants, English is power.

As the Donald Trump administration prepares to take office in a few weeks, California is preparing to protect its immigrant population from harsh immigration policies Trump promised to implement while he was campaigning.  Governor Jerry Brown announced this commitment in a speech shortly after the election.

http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article114044833.html

State legislators have prepared a package of bills that would protect immigrant rights, most of which are concerned with making sure immigrants placed in deportation proceedings have access to lawyers.  This is an important measure, as defendants in immigration court, unlike defendants in criminal trials, do not have a right to a public defender if they cannot afford to pay.  Having an attorney can make all the difference between deportation and a more favorable outcome in an immigration case.

http://sd24.senate.ca.gov/news/2016-12-05-california-legislature-takes-immediate-action-protect-immigrant-communities

Local entities, from cities to school districts to universities and community colleges are also passing resolutions and otherwise preparing to become safe havens for immigrants.

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/12/15/contra-costa-college-district-seeks-to-become-a-sanctuary/

If California is to successfully defend its immigrant population, a healthy adult school system must be part of its protective  infrastructure.  As my student said, immigrants need English more than ever, and adult schools are the largest provider of English as a Second Language  (ESL) classes in the state, serving more ESL students than community college credit and non-credit programs combined.  California will be better able to protect its immigrant population if immigrants are better able to defend themselves.  They need the English Language proficiency, life skills, and civic engagement training they find in adult schools.

Large numbers of immigrants are gathered in adult school programs, particularly ESL programs, so adult schools are a good place to reach them with information they need.  The school where I teach has already had one “Know Your Rights” presentation for our immigrant students, and there will be many more. If the California legislature is able to pass the package of immigrant protection bills that has been proposed, the state will need to get the information out to the immigrant community.  Adult schools will be an excellent place to disseminate the information.

Immigrants have certain protections in adult schools they don’t have in other places, including community colleges.  The Supreme Court decision of Plyler v. Doe, 457 US 202 (1982) prohibits school districts from asking questions about a student’s immigration status or excluding students on the basis of immigration status.California’s adult schools are part of K-12 school districts, so the protection of Plyler extends to adult school students.  By contrast, community colleges can and do ask about a student’s immigration status, and treat immigrants without papers as foreign students.  Immigrants without documents can never attain California resident status, no matter how long they have lived in the state, and have to pay the much higher out-of-state fees. This puts community college beyond the reach of California’s most vulnerable immigrants, those with low incomes and no documentation. The one exception is the Dreamers, young immigrants who won some protections under DACA.  The universities and community colleges will have an important role to play in defending these young people, many of whom are now in their system, especially if President-Elect Trump rescinds DACA after he becomes president.

But the majority of California’s immigrants are not Dreamers, and they need the English, training, and information they can find at their local adult school.  School districts that are passing resolutions now to protect the immigrant children in their systems would do well to remember that the adult parent is the protector of the immigrant child, and make provisions to protect the parents, grandparents and extended families of their immigrant students.  If they have an adult school, including their adult school students in any resolutions and other measures they take to protect children is a good step for them to take. Another thing they can do is recognize the importance of their adult schools and make sure they have adequate resources.

Along with an insecure future for immigrant populations, the approaching Trump presidency may bring economic uncertainty as well.  It is hard to know just what effect a Trump presidency will have on the economy, but there is certainly the potential for another economic crash such as the country saw in 2008, or perhaps worse.  Adult schools in their current precarious financial state are not equipped to withstand another severe economic downturn.  The governor is putting together his 2017-2018 budget now; this is a crucial time for him to increase the amount of funding for adult schools in that budget.

English is power for immigrants; we need to empower them if we are truly going to protect them.

You can write to Governor Brown and request that he increase funding for adult schools in the 2017-2018 budget here:

Mailing address:

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160

You can also email him from here:

https://govnews.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter from Concilio Latino to Governor Brown Requesting More Funding for Adult Schools

December 8, 2016

To: Governor Jerry Brown

Cc: Senator Nancy Skinner and Assembly Member Tony Thurmond

From: West County Concilio Latino Network

Concilio Latino is a network for persons and organizations working with the Latino population in West Contra Costa.  Concilio Latino members meet monthly to identify needs, share resource information, and address gaps in services to the Latino community, specifically the needs of the monolingual Spanish-speaking population.

We are requesting that the funding for Adult Education consortia be increased in the 2017-2018 state budget. We particularly request that the portion of the consortium budget that funds Adult schools be increased.

Adult schools in California have not had a funding increase since the year 2008 and in fact their budgets have been slashed between 2008 and 2013.

West Contra Costa County has a large and growing immigrant population and we have seen our adult school services severely reduced rather than expanded. Adult Schools serve a population that is very different from the regular college student and is better able to succeed in the Adult School system. Adult schools have been very important in promoting English proficiency, job training, and citizenship classes in the immigrant community, especially in the Latino immigrant community and therefore we urge you to increase the funding for these important services.  As a result of cuts to adult education, there are not enough English language classes in our community and people are placed on long waiting lists to get into a classes.

California is now preparing to withstand difficult times with a new Trump-presidency and we believe that the most powerful protection for our community is access to education. Adult education classes have been really important in our community as they represent a safe space to access education and information to protect immigrants and their families. If the services continue to be eliminated adults in our community, our families will continue to suffer.

 

Respectfully,

Concilio Latino Co-chairs

Consuelo Lara

Jessica Peregrina

How California’s Adult Schools Could Still Wither Away

Since last year, adult schools  finally have their own dedicated funding through the consortia. Adult schools have stable funding at last, and should be able to get on with the job of providing education for California’s adults. Unfortunately, adult schools are still in jeopardy because their funding is inadequate and the state apparently has no intention of increasing it.

Adult school funding has not so much stabilized as fossilized, and the fossilization took place when adult school funding had been reduced by half during a chaotic period of unrestricted cuts.  In 2008, the Great Recession precipitated a budget crisis in California, and the state legislature, as an emergency measure, removed restrictions on how schools could spend most of their categorical funds, including adult school funds. From 2008 to 2013, adult school funding was in free fall as school districts took their money to save other programs. Some adult schools closed altogether, and the number of adult schools in the state fell 11%.  State spending on adult schools fell from $750 million a year to $350 million, a more than 50% drop.

In 2013, the financial crisis was finally beginning to pass, but the state chose to make the emergency permanent for adult schools.  In that year, the state finally stopped the bleeding for adult schools by instituting a Maintenance of Effort provision for districts that still had adult schools.  Districts had to keep funding their adult schools at the 2012 level, but this was, of course, whatever low level of funding the adult school was receiving after four years of unrestricted cuts. The Maintenance of Effort persisted for two years, after which it was replaced by the consortia in 2015.

Even when the consortia came into being, the state did not raise adult school funding at all.  Only $350 million of consortia funds was dedicated for adult schools, and adult schools were only guaranteed the amount of funding they had under the Maintenance of Effort.  That is how the consortium funds were distributed; according to what schools got the year before. There was no provision for the fact that some adult schools were hit much worse than others.  The fortunate remained fortunate, and the unfortunate (who were often situated in areas of higher need) were left to struggle and scrape by as they had been doing for six years. There was another 1.5 million in consortium funding divided between all the 71 consortia in the state, and this funding could be spent at the discretion of the individual consortia. It could go to adult schools, but there was no requirement that it be spent on them.

Eight years is a very long time to go without any increase in funding at all, especially when an institution is trying to recover from severe cuts and the resulting disastrous losses of instructional time, personnel, and money for resources.  Adult schools are trying to hold the line, but even if they implement the most exacting austerity measures and leverage their resources with every possible lever they can pull, they are eventually going to fall behind. Here’s why:

Adult schools have three basic kinds of staff: teachers, classified staff (clerks, janitors, etc.) and administrators.  Adult school teachers are strictly adult school employees, but classified staff and administrators are district employees.  They can be  transferred or promoted into the adult school from  other positions in K-12, and they may transfer or be promoted out again to other K-12 positions.  Classified union members often  have bumping rights for all positions within the district, including the adult school. Classified  district staff are almost always unionized, and their union contracts are negotiated relative to the school district’s budget, not the adult school’s (much smaller) budget. Yet some of them will be working at the adult school, and the adult school must pay the negotiated wage. That is only fair, but since adult school funding is frozen, the adult school has to cut services in order to pay for every wage increase classified staff win.

School administrators,too, often belong to associations and negotiate their salaries as a group. Again, their salaries are negotiated relative to the budget of the district as a whole, not of the adult school, but some of them will work for the adult school, and, again, every raise or even cost of living increase will impact the adult school’s ability to provide services.

Many adult school teachers belong to unions also, but their wages are not bargained for relative to the budget of the district as a whole; their wages are bargained for relative to the adult school budget.  So their are likely to have to struggle harder for even the smallest raise while their  district argues that the money just isn’t there. Meanwhile, classified staff and administrators at the adult school will see regular raises that have been negotiated relative to the district budget, and their higher salaries will cut into the adult school’s budget and ability to provide services. Indeed, in severe cases, instructional hours may be cut and teachers may lose hours and income to pay for the salary increases of classified staff and administrators.  And, of course, students will lose out too, in the form of less classes, less instructional hours, and less supplies.

When I talk about adult school teachers’ wages, by the way, I do mean wages.  Most adult school teachers are part-time, hourly employees.  Most do not receive health care benefits or paid vacations and holidays, while classified staff and administrators who work at the adult school have the full benefits associated with full-time positions.

Of course, school classified staff and administrators need and deserve their raises. The problem is that the state does not take their raises  into account when they steadfastly refuse to provide adult schools with any more funding.  Legislators and policy makers in Sacramento don’t seem to know much detail about  how adult schools work, so their decisions frequently have unintended consequences.   In this case, the unintended consequence may be that adult schools will eventually sink beneath the burden of salaries negotiated with reference to school district budgets.

Add to this the fact that the cost of materials keeps going up, and that even the most carefully maintained old equipment eventually breaks down completely and needs to be replaced, and you can see that disaster is looming for adult schools sooner rather than later.  It is hard to understand why policymakers in Sacramento don’t see this too.  You simply can’t freeze the funding of an institution permanently and expect that it will not fall further and further behind.

Yet this is apparently what the state plans to do.  According to information that is beginning to come out about the 2017-2018 budget, the governor is planning, for the third year in a row, not to give adult schools any more money that he gave them last year and the year before that.

The excuse legislators give for not giving the consortia more money is that they need to see how the consortia work out.  If they see success, then they will consider more money.  But they are extremely fuzzy about how they define success. There are no timelines and no benchmarks, just a vague indication that the consortia haven’t met their expectations yet, whatever they are.  But the state has asked the consortia to effect sweeping changes that will take time to implement and even more time to show results.  If policymakers really intend to freeze consortium funding until that distant day when they see all the results they want, adult schools simply aren’t going to make it to the finish line.

Sacramento is ignoring the fact that success costs money.  The legislation that created the consortia imposed a lot of new costs, some of which must be born by adult schools. There are demands for additional services and data that have to be paid for somehow.  Governor Brown is famous for keeping a stone in his office for his contemplation. Next time he looks at it, he should remember that you can’t get blood out of one.

And Sacramento should remember that failure costs money, too.  Failure can be expensive, but it is a waste of money, not an investment.  If the state fails to fund the consortia adequately, they will be paying for a disappointment year after year until the whole thing finally runs into the ground. The consortia are trying hard to succeed.  If they fail for lack of adequate support from the state, government officials should blame themselves.

Only the citizens of California can turn this around.  The governor is now in the process of constructing the budget for 2017-2018, and he needs to hear from Californians that adult schools must be more adequately funded.  Please write to Governor Brown and ask him to increase consortium funding  to at least  the 2008 level of $750 million.  It won’t be enough, but it will be a start.  Please contact your state legislators too, and let them know this is important to you.  They will need to approve the governor’s budget by June.

The governor’s budget comes out in mid-January.  It will be revised in May, and the legislature has to approve it in June.

Here is Governor Brown’s address:

Mailing address:

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160

You can also email him from here:

https://govnews.gov.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

My thanks to Ken Ryan, an adult school teacher whose insight was the inspiration for this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Support California Proposition 55 to Support ALL Schools (Including Adult School)

Proposition 55 extends the Proposition 30 taxes that pulled California’s schools out of a financial crisis.  A report by the California Budget  and Policy Center on how Proposition 30 affected California’s schools is out, and the news is good.  Proposition 30 allowed the state to raise per pupil spending and  reduce student/teacher ratios, and the 1% is paying most of the taxes that fund these improvements.  In case you feel bad for the 1%, they are one of only two groups that experienced an increase in their average income over the past generation.  The other group that experienced an increase? The top 5%! Everyone else experienced a decrease.  It’s all in the report, and you can read it here:

http://calbudgetcenter.org/resources/what-has-proposition-30-meant-for-california/

We need to pass Proposition 55 because it is the right thing to do for California’s children.  We can’t go back to the days of wild swings and drastic drops in school funding. The state still doesn’t spend enough on education, and this should be declared a national emergency when you consider how many children live in this most populous of all the 50 states.  But Proposition 30 was a step in the right direction, and Proposition 55 would be another step.

As the report states, Proposition 30 helped the state reinvest in preschools, K-12 schools, and community colleges.  One branch of education that did not receive any direct benefit from Proposition 30 was adult school, and adult schools will not receive any direct benefit from Proposition 55.  Still, passing Proposition 55 is the best thing we could do for adult schools right now.  Adult schools were almost wiped out by the  drastic Great Recession  budget cuts that Proposition 30 was designed to correct.  While adult schools have not been restored to the (quite modest) level of funding they had before the Great Recession, they do now have their own funding source in the Adult Education Block Grant, and they are slowly beginning to crawl out of the abyss that opened up under them in 2008.

A drop in tax revenues for schools could stop the recovery of adult schools in its tracks.  The much weakened adult schools could be finished off for good if the state faces another crisis in education funding.  For children and adult learners alike, we need to pass Proposition 55.

And then we need to ask the state to put more money for adult schools in next year’s budget.

 

 

 

 

CCAE Legislative Update On AB 1846

California Council for Adult Education (CCAE)  has released  an update on legislation affecting California adult schools, which is reproduced below. As you will see, most of the bills are dead for 2016, except for SCR 116 (Mendoza) declaring April 3-9 2016 as Adult Education Week and AB 1846 (Lopez), which has a hearing in Senate Appropriations this coming Monday, August 1.

As the CCAE update explains, AB 1846 in its original form would have added an additional $250 million to the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG), making some much-needed additional funding available to adult schools.  The funding has been stripped from the bill, which has now been amended to provide that each consortium must include information about how AEBG funds are insufficient to meet the education needs of the adult population in the consortium area.  While the change to the bill is disappointing to the underfunded adult school community, the bill is still worth supporting, since documentation of the unmet needs of adult learners may lead to increased funding in the future.

That said, it is very frustrating that the Legislature and Administration want to observe the AEBG and the consortia for at least another year before even considering more funding.  This assures that adult schools will languish with inadequate funding for at least a decade. What do the Administration and Legislature hope to observe, other than the effects of their irresponsible behavior on a struggling institution which they damaged and then refused to restore?  The damage began during a crisis when everyone suffered, but continued for years after the state’s economy recovered and other institutions had their funding restored and even increased.  The money is there, but the state seems to prefer to keep adult schools on barely adequate life support.  We can only hope that adult schools get a little relief before the next recession hits.  Under the current system, adult schools are very fragile, and could be swept away by the next financial storm.

Thanks to CCAE and CAEAA for supporting AB 1846.  Let’s all keep working to restore adult education funding.

 

The CCAE Legislative Update follows:

Adult Education Update

AB 1846 (LOPEZ): ADULT EDUCATION BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM: REPORT

Current law requires the chancellor and the Superintendent to submit to the Director of Finance, the State Board of Education, and the Legislature, by September 30 following any year for which funds are appropriated for the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG) Program, a report about the use of specified funds and outcomes for adults statewide and in each adult education region. this bill would require that report to also include a summary, based upon a review of the annual adult education plan for each consortium, of the extent to which funds from the program provided to each consortium, in combination with other funds available to the consortium and other entities that provide education and workforce services for adults in the region, were insufficient to address the adult education demands within the service area of the consortium.

Position:  CCAE & CAEAA SUPPORT

Notes:  As originally introduced, the bill would have added $250 million to the AEBG; however, the Legislature and Administration prefers to have at least one more year under the AEBG framework before adding more resources to the pot of funding.

Status: Pending hearing in Senate Appropriations on 8/1

Review: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB1846


AB 1876 (LOPEZ): PUPILS: DIPLOMA ALTERNATIVES: LANGUAGE OPTIONS

Current law requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction to issue a high school equivalency certificate and an official score report, or an official score report only, to a person who has not completed high school and who meets specified requirements, including, among others, having taken all or a portion of a general education development test that has been approved by the State Board of Education. Commencing January 1, 2019, this bill would prohibit the department from approving or renewing approval of a contractor or testing center to administer the tests described above unless the contractor or testing center provides those tests in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

Position:  Concerns

Notes:  CCAE and CAEAA had concerns with the bill as initially introduced as it would have required HSE testing to be developed in multiple non-English languages.  Members were concerned about the costs associated with translation, equivalency, and more particularly with so little funding already available to adult schools for maintaining programming and services.  While the bill was scaled back to focus merely on English, Spanish and Vietnamese, the bill was ultimately held in Senate Education as a result of concerns regarding the necessity of translation and feasibility of such.

Status: Held in Senate Education, Dead for 2016

Review: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB1876


AB 2058 (MAYES): CALWORKS: EDUCATION INCENTIVES

Would create the CalWORKs Educational Opportunity and Attainment Program to provide CalWORKs recipients with a monthly education incentive grant of $100 for attainment of a high school diploma or its equivalent, $200 for attainment of an associate’s degree or career technical education program, or $300 for attainment of a bachelor’s degree, if the educational program was completed while the recipient was receiving CalWORKs assistance. The bill would require the education incentive grant to be provided on an ongoing basis if the recipient meets certain eligibility criteria.

Position:  CCAE & CAEAA SUPPORT

Status: Held on the Assembly Appropriations Committee Suspense File, Dead for 2016

Review: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2058


AB 2860 (BROWN): ADULT EDUCATION: ADULT EDUCATION BLOCK GRANT PROGRAM: APPEALS BOARD

Current law, Existing law requires the chancellor and the Superintendent, with the advice of the executive director, to approve, for each consortium, rules and procedures that adhere to prescribed conditions. This bill would give a consortium member the right to submit an appeal to the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG) Appeals Board, which the bill would establish and that would consist of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges, the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Executive Director of the State Board of Education.

Position:  CCAE & CAEAA SUPPORT

Status: Held in the Assembly Higher Education Committee, Dead for 2016

Review: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160AB2860


SCR 116 (MENDOZA): ADULT EDUCATION WEEK

This bill would proclaim the week of April 3, 2016, to April 9, 2016, inclusive, as Adult Education Week, and would honor the teachers, administrators, classified staff, and students of adult education programs statewide for their efforts, persistence, and accomplishments.

Position:  CCAE & CAEAA SUPPORT

Status: Chaptered by the Secretary of State

Review: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201520160SCR116

We Need to Serve 5 Million

California is home to 5.2 million adults who have less than a high school education, and community colleges and adult schools combined have only ever been able to serve about one-fifth of them. That figure should be the north star that guides all adult education policy in California,the goal of reaching all 5.2 million the mark we know we all need to strive for. But so far this has not been the case.  Currently the state is in the midst of reforming the adult education system, and is shining the bright light of scrutiny on all adult education activities, demanding data, data, data. But the  3.5 million unserved adults remain in the shadows, rarely mentioned, though the shocking size of their numbers is the most important datum of all.

The  2012 Legislative Analyst’s Report  “Restructuring California’s Adult Education System”, one of the chief documents guiding the current reform measures,  noted that adult schools and community colleges together served about 1.5 million students in 2009-2010.  That was the first year after the fiscal crisis in California had begun to take its toll on community colleges and adult schools, but long before its ravages were complete.  Over the next several years, both systems continued to suffer, and the number of students they were able to serve continued to drop.  Adult schools were particularly hard hit.  The state in essence defunded them, throwing them on the mercy of their school districts.  Some adult schools closed down completely, most suffered severe cuts. When the recession was over and the state began to recover, the state restored and even increased community college funding, but froze adult school funding at the abysmal level it had fallen to by 2013.  There it remains today, so the adult education system of 2016 still has not recovered the capacity it had in 2009-10, a time when educational services were still reaching only about one-fifth of the adults who needed them.

In the midst of the recession and the attendant cuts and budget chaos, the state began making plans to “reform” the adult education system.  But the focus of the “reform” was not the 3.5 million and counting Californians who were going without basic education services. Instead, the state chose to dither  over “duplication of services” between adult schools and community colleges.  In other words, in the midst of this tremendous, and increasing, dearth of services, we somehow had too many services!  And these extra services had to be stamped out!

Never much more than a Republican talking point adopted by Democrats who wanted to look tough (and oh, how tough they could look stomping all over the nearly powerless adult schools and their marginalized and vulnerable students!), “duplication of services” was never very well defined.  After all, to people who just don’t like the idea of public services at all, the mere fact that both adult schools and community colleges   teach adults might be seen as an unacceptable “duplication of services.”  The significant differences in the way the two institutions serve students would not matter, nor would the fact that between the two of them they aren’t doing  nearly enough to serve all the Californians who need basic literacy services..

With little guidance as to what the offending duplication actually was, adult schools and community colleges, now mandated to work together in consortia to ,among other things, eliminate “duplication”, put themselves through contortions to avoid this fearsome and yet ill-defined monster. It is heart-rending to sit through meetings about the consortia, listening  to community college and adult school teachers alike talking in determined and yet uncertain tones about the things they  are doing to avoid “duplication of services”.  They sound rather like children who have been punished for an infraction they don’t understand but want to make sure they don’t commit again.  Because the nature of the duplication was never  clearly explained, everyone has their own definition.  All this agony over a non-problem, while the very real problem of lack of services goes unaddressed!

It should be noted that the State of California does not seem to be concerned about duplication of services in any other context.  While the consortia spin their wheels trying to eliminate duplication, the state is busily working on legislation to allow community colleges to award 4-year degrees in some fields.  The state is also encouraging community colleges to expand their non-credit programs, the very programs that look most like adult school programs and may have led to the idea that adult schools and community colleges are duplicating services in the first place.  Not that any of this is necessarily  bad.  But why is there so much concern about one kind of  (very vaguely defined) “duplication of services” between adult schools and community colleges,  while duplication is encouraged in other areas?  The state is being highly inconsistent about this, to say the least.

The whole thing might just be a kind of comedy of errors if the stakes weren’t so high for adult schools and the students they serve.  The state has very unfairly thrown the burden of making the consortium “partnerships” work onto adult schools.  All state funding for adult schools now comes through the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG), and the block grant money only comes to adult schools that are in consortia with their community colleges.  By contrast, community colleges still have their own funding, quite a lot of funding compared to what adult schools had in even the best of times, which is not dependent on their being in the consortia at all.

The total amount of the AEBG is $500 million; which is $250 million less than was spent on adult schools alone before the financial crash of 2008. Out of that $500 million, only  $350 is dedicated to adult schools.  This $350 million represents the rock-bottom amount that was being spent on adult schools in 2014, when the legislation creating the AEBG was drafted.  The rest is available to the consortia to spend however they see fit. It might be spent on an adult school program, a community college program, or a collaboration between the two. But the amount of guaranteed funding for adult schools is no more than the deeply inadequate amount that was being spent on them at the end of  six long years of unlimited cuts to adult school budgets. Adult school funding fell steeply between 2009 and 2013, and then stagnated.  So far,the AEBG locks in the stagnation.  The state has no plans to increase the AEBG next year.

Yet it is up to the badly underfunded adult schools to make the consortia work.  The consortia are supposed to be a collaboration between adult schools and community colleges, but structurally the relationship is wildly unequal.  One partner, the community colleges, participates in the consortia only by choice and has adequate funding independent of what it receives through the consortium.  The other partner, the adult schools, is completely dependent on the consortia for survival.  Since the consortia are a collaboration, they can only succeed if the two parties work together.  But one party has practically nothing at stake, while the other will perish if the collaboration fails to meet state expectations.  Somehow the state has decided that holding the adult schools hostage to the consortia is the best way to make these “partnerships” work.  The engine of reform, apparently, is to be the desperation of the weaker party to the enterprise, whose wild scrambling for survival will somehow move adult education in California forward.

It is in the context of this grim struggle to survive that the state’s excuse for refusing to increase the Adult Education Block Grant for next year must be understood. The chief argument one hears is that the state wants to “see how the consortia work out”.  If the state likes the way the consortia are going, they might increase the AEBG for 2017-2018.

This is like putting a man on a diet of one slice of bread a week and saying, “Let’s see how he does on that.  If he does well on that slice for a month, maybe  we’ll give him two slices a week.” Everyone knows how that experiment would work out; the man would not show improvement; he would decline.  He would never earn that extra slice of bread, and would eventually die of hunger. His fault for not using that one slice of bread well.

Institutions are not so different.  If the state wants to see how well adult schools do on inadequate funding, it has had eight long years to observe the phenomenon.  What more do they need to see?  Wouldn’t the state like to see what we could do with a little more funding for a change?

Data, data, data.  The state wants to measure the hunger.  Could you give us measurements as to how far your bones are protruding through your flesh?  The state would like to see waiting lists for our classes to prove that there is a need.

We can give you waiting lists, but you know your waiting list, California.  The waiting list is 3.5 million.  Why does that generate no sense of urgency?  They may not be on waiting lists for adult education classes because the only adult school in their area closed, but they are waiting.

Ironically, there is one increase to adult education in the Governor’s May Revise of the 2016 budget: a one time, $5 million, allocation for technical support to the consortia.  No additional money for services, for classes and teachers, just some money to help the consortia tweak their bureaucracies a little more.  $5 million dollars–that’s one dollar for every person in the state who needs adult education services, the 1.5 million or so who are receiving services and the 3.5 million who wait.

A few steps have been taken towards the ones who are waiting.  A few adult schools have been reopened, mostly because the community colleges in their consortia have generously given up their portion of the consortium money to fund the reopening.  But not every community college will be able to afford to do this; the consortia do impose some costs on the community colleges, after all.  While some community colleges have behaved very handsomely and deserve to be commended for their foresight, the power of the community colleges alone to revive adult schools in California is limited.

Another important step is AB 1846 (Lopez), which would increase the Adult Education Block Grant by $250 million.  The aim of the bill is to restore the funding available to adult schools to something like what it was before the financial crisis of 2008, when the state spent about $750 million on adult schools.  This bill, if it passes, will be an excellent beginning to  reviving adult education services in California and eventually providing basic literacy services to all the adults in California who need them.

Five million Californians need adult education services. Providing services for them must be our goal.  Let’s set a course and go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AB 1846 Hearing May 11

AB 1846 (Lopez), a bill that would increase the Adult Education Block Grant by $250 million, goes to a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee this coming Wednesday, May 11 at 9:00 AM in Room 4202 in the Capitol Building in Sacramento.  The merits of this bill as to its financial impact will be heard at this time.  It is likely to be placed in a suspense file, like any bill with a cost of $150,000 or more.  There will be a suspense hearing later in the month, and if the bill passes out of that hearing it will go to the assembly floor.

Supporters of adult education are needed to attend this hearing and voice their support for the bill.  It is particularly important for adult school students to attend and ask legislators to support the bill. It may not be possible for attendees to state more than their name and organization and their support for the bill, but it is important that legislators see that the bill has a lot of support.

The Chair of the Appropriations Committee is Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez.  Her address is State Capitol, P.O. Box 942849 and her phone number is (916) 319-2080.

You can view a fact sheet about AB 1846 at http://adulteducationmatters.blogspot.com/