Adult ed, regional occupational centers, partnership academies get reprieve

Once-threatened programs that prepare high school students for careers and adults for jobs or college appear likely to get at least a two-year reprieve under the compromise budget plan negotiated between legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Carolina Romo learns how to draw blood at a medical assistant's class at Metropolitan Adult School in San Jose. Photo by Neil Hanshaw

Carolina Romo learns how to draw blood at a medical assistant’s class at Metropolitan Adult School in San Jose. Photo by Neil Hanshaw

Under the compromise, districts that currently have adult education programs or are involved in Regional Occupational Centers and Programs, which provide hands-on learning in specific careers for high school students, will be required to keep their current programs for two more years, said state Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, who was a key player in the negotiations.

Altogether, the state currently allocates $384 million for the centers and $634 million for adult education, though districts are able to use those funds for any educational purpose. But only about $300 million is being spent on adult education, according to estimates by the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Under Brown’s original school finance proposal, districts could use the specific funding for almost all “categorical” programs for any educational purpose. The compromise for the regional occupational centers and adult education programs was reached because of fears that too many districts would choose to spend those formerly dedicated funds elsewhere.

Legislators “want to make sure that good programs don’t disappear accidentally,” said Christopher Cabaldon with Capitol Impact, a consulting firm that manages the Linked Learning Alliance. At the same time, they don’t want to “freeze them in time forever” without exploring better alternatives, he said.

Regional occupational centers, partnership academies get a boost

During those two years, districts will be able to develop innovative approaches to experiential learning through a competitive grant process, Hancock said. The compromise would set aside an additional $250 million in one-time money to develop ways to integrate hands-on career skills with academics, often called “linked learning,” she said. For example, high school students can study algebra in the context of training to be an electrician or chemistry to become a health care professional. These programs typically involve professionals from local industry and businesses, who mentor students, arrange internships and sometimes teach classes.

Sen. Loni Hancock

Sen. Loni Hancock

“We want to get out of the silos (of academics and career tech) and really develop experiential learning,” Hancock said. “We want experiential learning to be imbedded in the way we look at the educational options we give our children. You can teach high-level skills and get kids hooked on learning because it’s real – you know why you are being asked to learn chemistry.”

Current programs that already take that approach, such as California Partnership Academies and the Agricultural Career Technical Education Incentive Program, will continue as ongoing categorical programs with dedicated funding. Specialized Secondary Programs, which provide competitive funding to develop innovative high school curricula, will also continue as an ongoing categorical program. These programs are much smaller. The Partnership Academies program, which receives $19 million through the state Budget Act, is the largest.

These programs are awarded to districts through a competitive process and are seen as state, rather than district programs, Cabaldon said. They also have proven to be effective, Hancock said. “We know they keep kids in schools, graduate them and send them on to higher education.”

Hancock cautioned that she cannot be absolutely certain about how the career technical and adult education funding will look until she sees the final “trailer” language that accompanies the budget, which is expected to be released Wednesday. “The devil is in the punctuation,” she quipped.

Fred Jones, an advocate for career technical education, said he hopes the trailer bill will make it clear what districts must do to maintain their effort in preserving the programs. He hopes the language “will be specific, rigorous and enforceable.”

Hancock is equally adamant about the need to protect experiential learning. “As long as there are fill-in-the-bubble academic tests, districts will prepare kids for the tests rather than have them learn through a career prism,” she said.

Adult education survives

Like with the regional occupational centers, districts that currently provide adult education will be required to continue their programs for the next two years. In the meantime, the budget gives $25 million to the Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office to work with districts over the next two years to develop regional consortia that would streamline how adult education is provided. In the May Revision of his budget, Brown had proposed allocating $500 million in funding to the consortia in 2015-16, with $300 million earmarked for existing programs. Adult education advocates had been concerned that the incentive would not be enough to prevent some districts from closing their adult ed programs during the two years prior to 2015-16.

Brown had initially proposed moving all adult education programs to community colleges. But advocates of district programs argued that many students, including those who do not speak English, lack the means to travel to a community college and also would feel intimidated on a college campus.

“We realized that going to a high school building near you is a different thing from going to a community college,” Hancock said. Though the colleges and adult education programs overlap, they also serve quite distinct populations of people, she said.

Because the coordination grants were for two years, adult education advocates were not surprised that the reprieve was also for two years, said Dawn Koepke, who lobbies for the state’s two adult education organizations.

“Given all the other factors in play regarding the Local Control Funding Formula and changes to education reform, two years is a very good start,” she said.

Hancock says she feels optimistic about the future of both experiential learning and adult education.

Both programs “could have been in a position to disappear,” she said. “Now we have two-year maintenance of effort requirements, incentive grants to do planning, and are keeping the small programs that have been so successful so they can continue as they are.”

Filed under: Adult Education, Career Preparation, College & Careers, Community Partnerships, Local Control Funding Formula, School Finance, State Education Policy

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5 Responses to “Adult ed, regional occupational centers, partnership academies get reprieve”

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  1. Paul on Jun 13, 2013 at 8:54 am06/13/2013 8:54 am

    • 000

    el, as no district will lose money (relative to 2007-2008) under LCF, it’s neat that local school board members will become accountable for “maintainenance of effort”. As the Adult Ed. debate was going on last fall, I warned my adult students that what little was left of our program (in the wake of categorical funding flexibilty) might not be there the following year. I put the question to them: what kind of community do you want to live in, one that prioritizes these services or one that doesn’t?

    Cynthia, thanks for pointing out that this is merely a temporary reprieve. There is still no clear and workable policy direction from the State. You’ll be saddened to know that in my local district, not only Adult Ed. but also ROP is on the chopping block. A summer maintenance task involves converting a high school wood shop to a classroom. If we don’t preserve the physical facilities, it becomes impossible to restore trades classes. I guess the plan is for everyone to master algebra and go to college, with a great may of the college graduates working at Starbucks.


    • Manuel on Jun 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm06/13/2013 1:01 pm

      • 000

      Don’t forget, Paul, that the Invisible Hand of the Market will also make it very difficult and expensive to get that degree that you will qualify you to work at Starbucks. Supply and demand, you know…

  2. Cynthia Eagleton on Jun 12, 2013 at 11:00 am06/12/2013 11:00 am

    • 000

    Thank you for once again covering what the larger press has only recently begun to better address: Adult Education, ROP, etc.

    I’m troubled by the title of the piece “AE, ROP, Partnership… Get Reprieve.”

    Troubled thinking perhaps that’s all this is: a reprieve.

    A reprieve is not restoration.

    It’s a temporary break in an assault.

    And why the assault?

    When was a case made against the value and necessity of Adult Ed?t

    When did the public mandate these programs be closed?


    That’s what troubles me so deeply.

    Through a budget process, instigated by a governor, not the legislature, Adult Ed has been decimated and close to eliminated. And the fate of some mandated parts of it – Older Adults and Parent Ed – is still unclear.

    ( lists the populations served, per CDE)

    I keep coming back to the idea that if you are going to eliminate something, you need to be out loud about it.

    Either you make the case it is bad and must be purged.

    Or that it is good but there is not enough money to pay for it.

    In which case, you say you will try to pay for it in the future, if you can.

    The cuts and closures in Adult Ed started five years ago.

    Real support from the public has been gaining momentum for years.

    And there is now real support from the Legislature, especially from folks like Senator Hancock, Senator Liu, and Assemblymember Bonilla.

    And yet… I see titles like “Reprieve” and I sigh…

    Is this an endless effort? Do we need to make our case again and again and again?

    Especially because many in the communities we serve live with oppression and injustice, who well know that speaking up does not always result in desired outcome, it takes great effort for us to mobilize.

    As a whole, Adult Education students are not folks steeped in entitlement who expect to get what they want when they want it.

    On the contrary, they know they often don’t and won’t.

    And yet, the Adult Education community has mobilized mightily.

    I know things are still in process and I know that politics IS a process…

    but I can’t help feeling a pang of sadness when I see that word “reprieve.”

    I hope that’s not what this is.

    I hope, instead, that it’s the beginning of our turning, as a people, away from sickness and toward health.

    Time will tell.

    Thanks again, for always covering Adult Education.

  3. el on Jun 12, 2013 at 10:05 am06/12/2013 10:05 am

    • 000

    I hope that the legislature will remember that if they are going to require “maintenance of effort” that their part of the bargain is to provide “maintenance of funds.”

  4. Fred Jones on Jun 12, 2013 at 8:43 am06/12/2013 8:43 am

    • 000

    The devil will most certainly be in the details of the accompanying Trailer Bill and the actions of the SBE over the next two years:

    Will CTE continue to be marginalized by allowing districts to feign support while diverting CTE dollars to mandated and high-stakes tested disciplines?

    Will distrits continue to further narrow curricular options for students by spending their new and unencumbered funds on ELA/Math (at expense of Science, Social Studies, Arts, World Languages, CTE, etc.)?

    Will a new accountability system developed by SBE (particularly for middle/secondary schools) be robust to cover a broad spectrum of school performance and understandable to the public, to counter-weight this narrowing incentive?

    The advent of LCFF begs a lot of questions that will need to be substantively and timely addressed, else we may be victims to good intentions and unintended consequences (two phrases that best summarize my 20 years of experience “under the Dome” in Sacramento).

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