Kenyan Loice Koster attends the Metropolitan Adult School in San Jose CA. Photo by Neil Hanshaw Ink & Image

Loice Koster, an immigrant from Kenya, attends the Metropolitan Adult School in San Jose. Photo by Neil Hanshaw Ink & Image

With clear signals from the Department of Finance that the Brown administration will at least discuss changes to its controversial proposal to shift all responsibility for adult education to community colleges, a Senate subcommittee has delayed a vote on the proposal in the hopes that all sides of the debate can agree on a compromise.

“We’re looking at ways to address opponents’ concerns going forward,” Mario Rodriguez, a budget analyst with the Department of Finance, told the members of Senate Subcommittee 1 on Education on Thursday. The subcommittee could have decided to support the governor’s proposal or oppose it as an Assembly subcommittee did in a unanimous vote on March 19.

Finance department spokesman H.D. Palmer said after the hearing that the Brown administration still thinks the initial proposal is sound but is “willing to have discussions with the overall goal of moving this process forward.”

At this point, no one else appears to be happy with Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal to provide dedicated funding for adult education programs only to community colleges. Prior to the recession, the state dedicated about $634 million for adult schools to K-12 districts. In order to give districts more flexibility during tough economic times, the state allowed districts to use that money for any educational purpose, and many reduced adult education offerings. Districts now spend less than $300 million on adult education.

Brown’s proposal would give community colleges $300 million in dedicated funding for adult education, but Dan Troy, vice chancellor of finance and facilities planning for the community college system, expressed concerns about the timing. If community colleges are expected to take over all adult education, “we need a realistic transition and time frame,” he said, whether that means six months or two years. “The key is to get it right and implement it in a realistic way.”

Adult schools serve some of the state’s neediest adults, offering community-based literacy and English language courses, citizenship and parenting classes, vocational education, and GED and high school diploma courses. Currently, both K-12 school districts and community colleges provide adult education classes.

Sen. Carol Liu, D-Glendale, and chair of the Senate Human Services Committee, has been working with adult ed advocates, including the California Department of Education, to focus adult education programs so that they provide clear pathways to college and careers, said Erin Gabel, who testified on behalf of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who supports dedicated funding for K-12 adult education programs. Gabel pointed out that K-12-based adult ed, unlike most community college adult ed programs, focuses on serving adults who need basic literacy and language skills.

“There are growing concerns about national immigration reform,” she said, adding that California will need more classes such as English as a Second Language and citizenship, to meet those immigrants’ needs.

Chris Nelson, president of the California Council for Adult Education, said already more than 70 adult schools have closed and another 20 have notified their staff that they plan to close at the end of this school year. One of those 20 is Oakland’s adult school, which has been in existence for 141 years and where Nelson is the administrator.

“We will be the largest city in the state without an adult education program,” he said.

After the hearing, Nelson said he was glad the senators will reconsider the issue at a later date. “We’re hopeful that in the next few weeks through meetings and discussions that we can come up with an alternative plan before the May Revise (the governor’s revision of his budget proposal due in May).”


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  1. Cynthia Eagleton 3 years ago3 years ago

    Thank you for excellent coverage of today's hearing. I would add two things: One: Adult Ed also includes Older Adults. At least for now. Gov. Brown's plan does not include that for the future. I have yet to see a large investigative piece of the impact that losing Older Adults classes will have on the cost of health care for the growing number of seniors in our state. Two: I noticed in the … Read More

    Thank you for excellent coverage of today’s hearing.
    I would add two things:
    One: Adult Ed also includes Older Adults. At least for now. Gov. Brown’s plan does not include that for the future. I have yet to see a large investigative piece of the impact that losing Older Adults classes will have on the cost of health care for the growing number of seniors in our state.
    Two: I noticed in the notes that the Senators had for their meeting (http://sbud.senate.ca.gov/subcommittee1), a comparison of costs for students in K12 Adult Schools and students in CC credit and CC noncredit programs. It noted that K12 Adult Schools permit a fee for ESL classes and CC noncredit programs don’t… and said there was a discrepancy in fee structure. This discrepancy is only post-flexibility. Prior to flexibility, K12 Adult Schools were not allowed to charge a fee. Now we are “allowed” to because it is one way we can toenail our way to hanging on, in order to continue to serve our students. It troubles me that this was not mentioned. I am concerned that K12 Adult Schools are being framed as problem children… when in fact, we are heroes. It’s like complaining about a teenager who has survived trauma, lives in a foster home, struggles to do well in school and does pretty darn well, but doesn’t dress well and can’t afford to go to prom. You can focus on the odds that the student has overcome. Or you can focus on their tattered clothing. We in K12 Adult Ed are that foster child. We have overcome much and we understand who have overcome much and need to. We deserve to be recognized for the heroes we are.

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