Jesus Lupian works on a framing project in his carpentry class in San Jose. Photo by Neil Hanshaw.

Jesus Lupian works on a project in his carpentry class at the Metropolitan Education District, a combined adult school and regional occupational center in San Jose. Credit: Neil Hanshaw.

Advocates for adult education and regional occupational centers, which provide hands-on learning in specific careers, say they are satisfied that the language in the budget bills expected to be voted on Friday is strong enough to protect their programs for another two years. The legislators and governor did not mince words, they say, in requiring districts that currently have programs to fund them for two more years.

Dawn Koepke, a lobbyist for the state’s two adult education organizations, said it is clear that even if a district voted to close its program at the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year, it would be obligated to continue the program at its current funding level for two more years.

“The deciding factor is whether they spent resources on adult education programs in 2012-13,” she said. “If they did, they must continue to do the same.”

Christopher Cabaldon with the Sacramento-based consulting firm Capitol Impact and manager of the Linked Learning Alliance, said the detailed explanation of the budget released Thursday also defines “career readiness” programs. Programs such as the regional occupational centers must require a sequence of classes in a single industry sector that has high-wages and high-growth potential. The program must also offer a certificate that is a prerequisite for an apprenticeship program or college degree.

In 2015-16, when districts are no longer required to continue funding the regional occupational centers, career readiness will be part of a district’s Academic Performance Index score, which measures the academic progress of a school’s students and sets targets that schools are expected to reach.

If a district has a high-functioning regional occupational center, the new API requirement would be an incentive for the district to retain the center, Cabaldon said.

However, Fred Jones, an advocate for vocational and career tech programs, is not so sure. “I get the sense that following the expiration of the two-year reprieve, the accountability references will be ignored by districts,” he said.

On the other hand, Jones said, “I am obviously grateful for the two-year reprieve and the opportunity to make a stronger case for career technical education.”

Adult education programs are offered by both school districts and community colleges and sometimes overlap. During the next two years, legislators and the governor expect adult schools and community colleges to work together to streamline adult education programs by developing regional consortia. The governor has proposed spending $500 million on adult education in 2015-16, with current programs being given priority for the funds.

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