Assembly committee rejects moving adult ed to community colleges

In a clear message to Gov. Jerry Brown, an Assembly subcommittee voted unanimously Tuesday to reject his proposal to shift responsibility for adult education programs from K-12 districts to community colleges.

The bipartisan 4-0 vote, with one subcommittee member absent, followed a flurry of pink slips issued by school districts to adult educators last week.

The vote was also meant as a message to school districts considering abandoning their adult ed schools that the Assembly supports current district programs and that there will be funding for those programs, said Assemblymember Susan Bonilla (D-Concord), chair of Assembly Budget Subcommittee No. 2 on Education and Finance. It is the only subcommittee on the Budget Committee that deals with education.

Carlos Atrerra, a Columbian, learns English as a second language at the Metropolitan Adult School in San Jose CA. Photo by Neil Hanshaw

Carlos Atrerra, a Columbian, learns English as a second language at the Metropolitan Adult School in San Jose CA. Photo by Neil Hanshaw

“I’ve heard from many of my colleagues in the Assembly and from many constituents that the governor’s proposal is going to be devastating to adult ed,” she said. Bonilla said the Legislature’s previous actions that eliminated dedicated funding for adult education beginning in 2009 occurred “in the midst of a great financial crisis.” As the state budget tightened, $634 million previously earmarked for adult education became “flexible,” allowing school districts to use the money for any educational purpose. With budgets eroding due to the recession, many districts channeled those funds into K-12 programs and greatly reduced or shuttered adult education offerings.

“It was never the intention to destroy adult ed,” she said. “We know we’ve weakened it; it is now a very fragile system. We’re not going to continue down that path. It’s far too critical for thousands and thousands of Californians as the place where they can have their education needs met.”

Adult schools offer community-based classes to some of the state’s neediest adults, ranging from the unemployed, the disabled and the elderly to ex-offenders re-entering society and immigrants trying to learn English and become citizens. They are typically located in schools or neighborhood centers providing easy access to these students, who often are intimidated by college campuses.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal includes setting aside $300 million in dedicated funding for adult education, something the subcommittee supports, Bonilla said. But, she added, she has heard from a number of community college representatives that say the colleges will not be ready by July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year, to assume full responsibility for adult ed.

Currently some community colleges, such as San Francisco City and San Diego City, run their own adult ed programs. But many of the 112 community colleges do not support adult ed programs or have only a few classes. Others offer similar classes. This duplication of effort by adult schools and community colleges, as well as the abandonment of adult education by many school districts when they were able to use adult school funds for any educational purpose, convinced the governor that shifting responsibility to community colleges was the best way to ensure adult education for the future.

Bonilla and Dawn Koepke, a lobbyist for two statewide groups – California Council for Adult Education (CCAE) and California Adult Education Administrators Association (CAEAA) – said they will be working with the governor’s office, the Department of Finance and Sen. Carol Liu (D-Glendale), who is chair of the Senate Education Committee and will be sponsoring a bill regarding adult ed, to fashion a compromise that will ensure funding for the state’s existing district adult education programs. They also will work on developing clear pathways from district adult schools to college; the lack of such pathways is another criticism of the current adult education system. The Senate is scheduled to consider the governor’s proposal on April 11.

“We consider this Assembly vote very important,” Koepke said. “Comments made by the assemblymembers showed their understanding and appreciation that access, skills, programming and services are best served under the K-12 system. The subcommittee chair made it very clear that neither the governor’s proposal nor the committee’s actions should be a path to layoff notices or closed adult schools.”

Access has been a key argument for those opposed to the governor’s proposal. Many adult education students’ first contact with the state’s education system is through literacy classes at their children’s school.

Suzanne Ludlum, who teachers at Korematsu Discovery Academy and Esperanza Elementary in East Oakland, said mothers move from her literacy class to her GED class or into the job market.

“They have enough English to work and provide support for their families,” she said, adding that her “hidden agenda” is to encourage these mothers to go on to college.

Chris Nelson, president of the California Council for Adult Education and director of Oakland’s adult school, which trustees voted in February to close at the end of the school year, called the subcommittee’s action “a good step in the right direction.”

“There absolutely needs to be dedicated funding for adult education in K-12 schools,” he said. “That’s the only way adult education is gong to survive.”

Filed under: Adult Education, College & Careers, Legislation, Local Control Funding Formula, School Finance, State Education Policy

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7 Responses to “Assembly committee rejects moving adult ed to community colleges”

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  1. Scott Jones on Apr 25, 2013 at 3:53 pm04/25/2013 3:53 pm

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    Adult education is necessary to ensure a means of integration into the workforce for those people that were not introduced to necessary skill sets in K-12, chose not dedicate themselves in K-12, or are new to the community. I would hope the question is how to fund the programs rather than why to fund the programs. The idea of utilizing the Community Colleges in California is one solution. Restructuring the existing K-12 system is another. The answer must be the most cost effective way to offer necessary classes to adult students that are affordable and available. By available I mean the classrooms must be accessible to the students and available during hours that minimize conflicts of other responsibilities common to adults. I have an undergraduate degree from a University, I am an advisory board member in three departments at a local community college, and I attend an Adult School as a student one night a week. I believe the current system can be restructured to create the best solution.

  2. Deborah Ebersold on Mar 22, 2013 at 12:16 pm03/22/2013 12:16 pm

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    I respectfully disagree that adults will find going to community colleges intimidating. Many adults have returned back to college after a long absence. I also do not believe that being under the administration of a community college means the school has to necessarily be on the campus. Additionally, I think the programs will be run better under the community college umbrella. It would definitely cut out some of the unnecessary bureaucracy that adult ed teachers have had to deal with and who receive a large salary for not performing any work, while hard working teachers are RIF’d.
    Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion.

  3. Nancy Castaneda on Mar 20, 2013 at 5:38 pm03/20/2013 5:38 pm

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    Adult Education is crucial to our community. Gov. Brown’s ideas about narrowing the focus to 6 core academics and clear pathways are great. Standardized testing and tracking would help to validate how many students we actually serve.
    We owe it to our children to educate parents. We owe it to children who slipped through the cracks to have the opportunity for a High School diploma or GED..We owe it to immigrants to teach English, Basic Education, and workforce skills.
    We are doing this well already. We can’t continue to do so if funding is not designated specifically for Adult Education. In SUHSD in San Diego, we have a model Adult Education program in the K-12 district. We are the closest district to the border of Mexico. If funding is not earmarked and mandated by Gov. Brown for Adult Education, we all know in the front lines that California will be headed for an educational disaster! Please consider revision of the current proposal. A concerned teacher from Montgomery Adult School

  4. Sergio Cuellar on Mar 20, 2013 at 4:57 pm03/20/2013 4:57 pm

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    This has been a sticky situation for our base of folks who support the Governor’s Local Control Funding. We see how the communities we work with will be affected, by the transition, but lets not forget the fact that the LAO has shared that a majority of school districts were only using 40%-50% of the funding allocated to Adult Ed, due to their Flexibility of the Categorical Funds. With still having flexibility next year with or without the LCFF Passing, what is to guarantee that Districts still wont cut the programs or underfund them?

  5. Almaz Adugna on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:42 am03/20/2013 11:42 am

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    My name is Almaz Adugna, instructor at Baldwin Park Adult and Community Education vocational program for the last seven years. During those years I witnessed that for most adults, being out of the classroom for even a few years can make going back to school intimidating; going community college even harder.

    Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to give the state’s community colleges $300 million to run adult education leaving K-12 districts or contracting with the district require through and critical study the underline problems. I do not believe that Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal with his good intention be practical Adult School Students.

    As the state budget tightened, adult education is the first target but it’s far too critical for thousands and thousands of Californians as the place where they can have their education needs met, whether to keep a certificate current, or to learn something new, or fulfill continuing education requirements, I saw “Baldwin Park Adult and Community Education” has been the bridge to lifelong learning.
    In my opinion, Community Colleges has one goal, and that is to register as many student as they can get but I saw how hard it is just to get into the waiting list to register for a certain classes and college students on average spend at least four years to get their associate degree.

    I definitely support and believe that Adult schools best served under the K-12 system.

  6. Paul on Mar 20, 2013 at 11:15 am03/20/2013 11:15 am

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    Well said, Paul.

    If anything, the radical changes to the GED test effective in January, 2014 necessitate more rather than less funding. Adult Ed teachers need training in the content of the new test (which is somewhat related to the Common Core), and teachers and students alike need experience with the form (computer-based, with “enhanced” item types). Given that many students enroll after long educational gaps, and that they were not successful in conventional schools (for whatever reason), students may well need extra classes to prepare for the new test.

    Trying to accomplish all of this at less than half the historic funding level, under threat of program closure/transfer to other institutions, is not a recipe for success.

  7. W. Paul Buczko on Mar 20, 2013 at 10:27 am03/20/2013 10:27 am

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    I agree with the above article especially the point that “community colleges will not be ready by July 1st. More importantly is the fact that the larger Adult Ed programs are running the risk of closing classes and turning away students due to a limited budget project for the future. Will $300 million help Adult Ed limp along for another year or will the program be able to survive. For a successful educational program most educators know that there needs to be a stable source of funding, accountability of funds spent, effective Standard Learning Objective (SLOs)for each program, a stable supply of effective current and upcoming teachers to implement the programs, and a political framework that encourages the state to continually support the Adult Ed programs. Currently the Adult Ed program lacks 3 of these requirements and is below the passing grade level on the rest.
    I suggest we look at Adult Ed programs in other States. Some programs are stand alone, others are blended, and in some states Adult Ed is partly state funded, and partly funded by nonprofit and charitable organizations.
    What the best for California’s Adult Ed Students? I think we have about one more year to find out. So, I suggest that we get K-12, the State legislators, and Community Colleges together to find the right solution.
    That’s if we are really serious about California’s educational future.

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