Photo by Jamie Balaoro

The reaction to Los Angeles Unified’s decision to cut the budget for adult school in half for the 2012–13 school year underscores the tenuous existence of adult education programs in California.

“I’m very, very happy,” said Michael Romero, executive director of Adult and Career Education for LAUSD.

That’s because earlier this year, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy had proposed eliminating the $210 million program, the state’s largest adult education program, in an effort to close a massive budget shortfall. The school board, in turn, kept $33 million in its budget for the 2012–13 school year.

But after the district and teachers union agreed to shorten the school year and give teachers 10 unpaid furlough days, thereby freeing up money for other purposes, the board transferred another $45 million to adult education. Another $27 million will come from the federal government, primarily through Title II of the Workforce Investment Act, which is more generally referred to as the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act. The act funds English as a Second Language classes, basic reading and math courses, and parenting and citizenship classes. LAUSD also receives federal funds through the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act for career-technical training.

“We’re not satisfied with the 50 percent cut, but we’re feeling much better about the restoration of funds,” Romero said.

Considering what has happened to many adult education programs, Romero has reason to be grateful. Funding for Oakland Unified’s adult school program has been slashed from $11.4 million to $1 million. An EdSource survey in October-November 2011 found that 22 of the state’s 30 largest districts had substantially cut their adult education programs, and that Anaheim Union had eliminated its adult school entirely. Only one of the 30 districts – Montebello Unified – had made no cuts.

School districts began shifting adult school funds to support K–12 programs after the Legislature in 2009 allowed state funding earmarked for adult education to be used for any educational purpose, as part of a larger shift to eliminate many so-called “categorical programs.”

When Deasy threatened to end adult education, former adult school students, teachers, and others in the community started a petition drive to save the program, and created a website called “Save Adult Ed!” After the board decision to restore another $45 million in funding, the website proclaimed: “Adult Education in LAUSD Survives! We have reached the tipping point, but still have many battles ahead.”

Funding for the program is far from secure. The district’s overall budget relies on passage of Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax initiative, Romero said, one of two initiatives on the November ballot that would raise substantial funds for schools.

“This funding gets us through November,” Romero said. “Voters will determine where we go from there.”

LAUSD currently has 1,780 adult education staff members, compared with 3,617 before the budget cut, according to district spokesman Thomas Waldman. With roughly half the staff remaining, LAUSD’s adult school will offer half as many classes in 2012–13 as it did this year, Romero said. He expects the program will serve about 105,000 students, down from 247,000 in 2011–12. (The budget amounts and student numbers do not include about 50,000 Regional Occupational Center high school and adult students. Starting in 2012–13, that program will be part of Secondary Instruction in the district.)

Although no programs will be eliminated, priority will be given to helping high school students who are behind on credits to graduate, Romero said. Parents of LAUSD students who need to learn English will also be first in line for English as a Second Language (ESL) courses, ahead of other adults. In the past, he said, there were enough classes for everyone.

Students may also have to pay a small, “manageable” fee for ESL classes, basic reading and writing courses, and classes for older adults, Romero said. In addition, he plans to raise fees by more than 20 percent for career-technical courses.

It is too soon to know what will happen to adult school programs in other districts that still support them. Adult schools have traditionally served some of the most marginalized of California’s adult population – including recent immigrants with poor English skills, high school dropouts who need basic academic instruction, the unemployed, and former prisoners reentering society. But because they are not part of the core K–12 population school districts are mandated to serve, these programs remain at greatest risk. A Legislative Analyst’s Office survey this spring showed that nearly one-third (28 percent) of districts shifted all their funding from adult schools to other purposes, while a similar number transferred a substantial portion of their funding.

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  1. SEer 7 years ago7 years ago

    The HSR train was only approved by willfully and vastly deceiving the voters about what it would cost. Check any poll taken at all recently and you'll see how the voters feel about HSR now that they're getting some accurate numbers. You can believe and claim that money spent on the HSR isn't somehow the same money that isn't going to get spent on education, but that requires ignoring the undeniable reality that it all comes … Read More

    The HSR train was only approved by willfully and vastly deceiving the voters about what it would cost. Check any poll taken at all recently and you’ll see how the voters feel about HSR now that they’re getting some accurate numbers.
    You can believe and claim that money spent on the HSR isn’t somehow the same money that isn’t going to get spent on education, but that requires ignoring the undeniable reality that it all comes out of the same pot.
    The biggest beneficiaries of the HSR are the unions who funded the campaigns of the legislators who voted to fund the HSR. Follow the money. Chicago on the Pacific.

  2. SEer 7 years ago7 years ago

    I saw what happened as it happened. I was there and I saw it. Brown and his Dem buddies took the school money away for his high speed monorail. Then he comes before the clueless CA. voters and tells them there's unexpectedly no money for schools. See what they did there? Classic shell game. And now we're forced to decide between raising taxes (again) (even more) or seeing the … Read More

    I saw what happened as it happened. I was there and I saw it. Brown and his Dem buddies took the school money away for his high speed monorail. Then he comes before the clueless CA. voters and tells them there’s unexpectedly no money for schools. See what they did there? Classic shell game. And now we’re forced to decide between raising taxes (again) (even more) or seeing the state’s wonderful public Career-Technical Education structure flushed down the drain. Even though the vast majority of CA.’s population don’t want the train nor will never use the train, and it has neither a plan to pay for its construction or a viable revenue model that will ever be anything except very heavily subsidized, our betters in the ruling class have decided that the train we shall have and by God this edifice to Jerry will be built pragmatism be damned.
    And now the hippies/liberals who have hamstrung and made it nearly impossible to build anything in this state for the last forty years are finding that the train requires as many delays in planning to address environmental concerns as the rest of the projects proposed in this state that don’t find such favor in hippie eyes: so their solution is to simply skip over these time-consuming barriers (grant the train project waivers) because (typical for liberals) the ends justify the means when it comes to what certain favored groups (they and their pals) desire. They aren’t enjoying the same delays being imposed on them that they’ve relished imposing on everyone else. What we used to be taught in school was the concept of “the rule of law” is moribund and rank in CA. We’re turning into Chicago on the Pacific. Besides, do you really think those people in Palo Alto are gonna let you run a train through THEIR neighborhood? Really?
    The most productive and economically astute in this state are realizing that their choices are to either stay and get reamed by the takers filling the state’s census rolls or leave our native land and find some other place where you don’t have a target painted on your back and aren’t punished so hard for investing so much in your education and then working so hard and so much. With 13% of the national population we pay 31% of the welfare in this country. One out of every three Americans on welfare lives in California. And they are absolutely solid voters for the political machine running CA.
    LAUSD Adult Schools (and others) are the key to adult self-sufficiency and upward mobility for so many people and their families in L.A. County. I see that with my own eyes too.
    $6 Billion just to start this train project (where are we supposed to get the $90 BILLION it’s CONSERVATIVELY estimated take to finish it?) and $100 million would fund LAUSD Adult and CTE completely- but there’s “no money” for that.
    And although the tax increases are being sold as restoring Adult Schools and CTE there’s no guarantee that the tax increases if approved would go to that end and a long history in this state of such funding bait-and switches.

    See what they did there?

    Replies

    • el 7 years ago7 years ago

      One of the biggest beneficiaries of the HSR project will be people using California's universities, which are for the most part on the HSR route. In the case of the train money - a project approved by the majority of voters - the alternative isn't spending nothing. It's spending a similar amount on additional highway lanes and airport terminals. It's not what's robbing education money. The sad thing is that we shortchange education but we put few … Read More

      One of the biggest beneficiaries of the HSR project will be people using California’s universities, which are for the most part on the HSR route.

      In the case of the train money – a project approved by the majority of voters – the alternative isn’t spending nothing. It’s spending a similar amount on additional highway lanes and airport terminals. It’s not what’s robbing education money.

      The sad thing is that we shortchange education but we put few caps on how much we’re willing to pay to imprison people.

      Education gets a huge share of the budget, but that budget has contracted to around 2/3 of its former size. The need for services has, alas, not contracted at all.

  3. Sonda Patricia Campbell 7 years ago7 years ago

    I am so THANKFUL to hear that this program was not shut down. It would have really harmed the Los Angeles economy for this program to close down. I’m really happy that the adult high school education program was not shut down!

  4. kuhiokane 7 years ago7 years ago

    Hey. Where the hell is that 600 billion dollars i hear about. and the hidden trillion dollars, etc.???? Is it real? Seems Calif is no different than Michigan. Corruption. That’s all I ask. I hear about this money and I hear nothing else.

  5. Lynne Nicodemus 7 years ago7 years ago

    In the past few years, thousands of adults across California have been deprived of the opportunity to get a low cost education (GED, High School Diploma, Entry Level job training, pre-college basic skills development) that will take them out of poverty and give them a chance at a better life--thanks to the ill-conceived decision that placed adult education funding into flexibility. Thanks to the proactive campaign of LAUSD's adult education advocates, there will be … Read More

    In the past few years, thousands of adults across California have been deprived of the opportunity to get a low cost education (GED, High School Diploma, Entry Level job training, pre-college basic skills development) that will take them out of poverty and give them a chance at a better life–thanks to the ill-conceived decision that placed adult education funding into flexibility. Thanks to the proactive campaign of LAUSD’s adult education advocates, there will be a lessening of that impact in LA. Giving the power to school districts to dismantle adult education programs when their primary objective is K-12 education was a serious mistake which will impact California’s economy and most-disadvantaged adults for years to come. California leaders need to recognize this serious mis-step and end flexibility.