Liv Ames for EdSource
Hessam Ghajar, a recent immigrant from Iran, practices English with classmates in a San Mateo Adult School class.

State legislators are considering a bill that would boost funding for adult education by $250 million – reinstating funds that were diverted to K-12 schools during the recession, causing many adult programs to close or cut back the number of classes they offered.

“Every time I go back to my district, families ask when are the adult schools coming back, especially the English as a Second Language programs in local schools,” said Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, who has introduced Assembly Bill 1846 to increase funding. “There are 16,000 people on waiting lists for adult classes just in Los Angeles.”

Adult schools provide free or low-cost classes to Californians who are too old for K-12 schools but not academically prepared for community college, or who don’t qualify for skilled jobs. They serve immigrants, the unemployed, disabled adults, high-school dropouts and ex-offenders re-entering society.

The state currently allocates $500 million a year to adult education in a block grant to local consortia made up of districts and community colleges, which both offer adult education programs. The consortia were created in 2013-14 to streamline programs and reduce duplication of efforts.

The proposed budget for 2016-17 continues the $500 million for the adult education block grant. H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance, said the department has not analyzed AB 1846 and at this point has not changed its recommendation.

But a joint report by the California Department of Education and the California Community Colleges supports the need to reinstate funding, saying that adult schools are serving 800,000 fewer students today than before the recession.

California must “restore and expand adult education program offerings across the state, and reinstate dedicated adequate funding for adult education programs,” according to a recommendation in the March 2015 report titled “Adult Education Regional Planning.”

Debra Jones, dean of workforce and economic development at the California Community Colleges, said the chancellor’s office has not taken a position on the bill.

“The need for more funding is huge,” Jones said, “but the consortia have been operating for only a year, and some of them would be better able to make use of the money than others.”

Jones said there are also some unresolved issues – such as teacher requirements and fees for classes – that might make legislators and the governor hesitant to support an increase in funding for 2016-17.

Currently, for-credit community college courses, such as some technology or business courses, require instructors to have a master’s degree. Others, such as English as a Second Language or basic vocational classes, require only a bachelor’s degree. School districts, on the other hand, require teachers to have an adult education credential, which includes courses beyond a bachelor’s degree but short of a master’s degree.

The Community Colleges Academic Senate and the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing are expected to release their recommendations regarding teacher requirements in July.

Jones said there has been less movement on synchronizing a fee schedule. College credit courses are set at $46 a unit statewide, she said, and noncredit courses have no fees, other than for parking or books. Some district adult education programs are free, and others charge fees.

In addition, she said, lawmakers “want to see outcomes. Are students getting jobs? Are they getting certificates? Are they transitioning to community college or four-year universities?” A report on student achievement will be issued in the fall, Jones said.

In the meantime, advocates have created the Adult Education Task Force and have initiated a letter-writing campaign to legislators, saying the need is too great to wait another year.

“Adult ed is woefully underfunded,” said John Mears, co-founder with Lopez of the task force. “In my view, the $250 million is just the tip of the iceberg of what we really need. One of the best things about adult ed is that almost anyone can get an education and get a chance.”

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  1. Steve Tran 1 year ago1 year ago

    The goal of taxpayers funding education is to improve our State economy and workforce development to ensure a return on investment. Free adult education classes in ESL and GED/diploma courses is largely given away to those who are undocumented, ineligible to work legally in the US, and often retired or not seeking work. With free online resources and public libraries, why does this nonsense continue? The money wasted on adult ed should be reallocated to … Read More

    The goal of taxpayers funding education is to improve our State economy and workforce development to ensure a return on investment. Free adult education classes in ESL and GED/diploma courses is largely given away to those who are undocumented, ineligible to work legally in the US, and often retired or not seeking work. With free online resources and public libraries, why does this nonsense continue? The money wasted on adult ed should be reallocated to help the mentally ill and addicted homeless veterans.

  2. Marion Heebink 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you for bringing Adult ed to the table! I love hearing about AB1846! Adult ed can only enhance peoples lives - and can give a second chance to so many different people in so many different situations in their lives! Free (or reasonable) education needs to be available to beyond K-12! High school diploma classes allow people to fulfill their goals and dreams. ESL classes allow folks to start … Read More

    Thank you for bringing Adult ed to the table! I love hearing about AB1846! Adult ed can only enhance peoples lives – and can give a second chance to so many different people in so many different situations in their lives! Free (or reasonable) education needs to be available to beyond K-12! High school diploma classes allow people to fulfill their goals and dreams. ESL classes allow folks to start over and succeed. Many other programs —- life long learning ensures a better community for all!

  3. Catherine Broz 2 years ago2 years ago

    So many vital programs such as Parent Education are a part of Adult Education.

  4. george Porter 2 years ago2 years ago

    In response to Lacie M.'s comment, though I'd certainly hire the Master Mechanic with 15 years experience to work on my car, that doesn't necessarily mean that individual has the skills required to teach others to do the job. As far as the freshly minted BA adult-ed credentialed teacher goes, his or her credential will only allow for teaching in fields in which they have knowledge of the curriculum and if this isn't the case, … Read More

    In response to Lacie M.’s comment, though I’d certainly hire the Master Mechanic with 15 years experience to work on my car, that doesn’t necessarily mean that individual has the skills required to teach others to do the job. As far as the freshly minted BA adult-ed credentialed teacher goes, his or her credential will only allow for teaching in fields in which they have knowledge of the curriculum and if this isn’t the case, the responsibility lies with the administrator who hired them or with loopholes in the credentialing process.

    Teaching is a profession in its own right, not just something those in other professions do in their spare time or when the job market is soft. Indeed, if anything teachers deserve more training and this needs to be more innovative and directly relevant than it’s been in the past. Clearly, greater attention should be given to teacher training, and if we want to standardize teacher requirements across the adult ed and community college systems for the students’ benefit, it would probably be best for ALL these teachers to be credentialed.

    As far as the current adult ed credentialing process goes, it is neither that arduous nor that costly. An aspiring instructor can begin teaching very soon after the process begins, ample time is given for completing the required courses, and extensions are commonplace. The fees are moderate and on a class by class basis which can essentially spread the cost out over years. Also, scholarships are in general available for low-income students.

    It would be very, very shortsighted to reduce the standards required to teach. The field needs to become more professionalized and these professionals better paid. A policy that allows folks, no matter how informally skilled they might be, to just walk in off the streets and stand in front of a classroom would be a serious step in the wrong direction.

  5. Jae Woon Jeong 2 years ago2 years ago

    I came from Korea last year and have been studying English at Pacific Grove Adult School since January, 2016. This English course is such a great opportunity that I can brush up on my English in writing, speaking, reading, and listening. This course is really helpful and useful for me to become a member of this community.

  6. Lacie M. 2 years ago2 years ago

    AB 86 required agencies serving adult learners to "come together" to avoid duplication of effort and align and consolidate services. This occurred after devastating funding cuts that left deserving adult learners out in the cold (relying more and more on tax-payer supported benefits) without options for learning English or gaining necessary skills for work. Now the consortia is meant to provide these consolidated services, yet the issues mentioned in Ms. Frey's story are daunting. Teacher … Read More

    AB 86 required agencies serving adult learners to “come together” to avoid duplication of effort and align and consolidate services. This occurred after devastating funding cuts that left deserving adult learners out in the cold (relying more and more on tax-payer supported benefits) without options for learning English or gaining necessary skills for work. Now the consortia is meant to provide these consolidated services, yet the issues mentioned in Ms. Frey’s story are daunting. Teacher qualifications for adult education vary widely throughout the country. Getting a CA Adult Education teaching credential is arduous and expensive. This keeps skilled teachers OUT of the classroom — especially those that might teach in career/technical education. Shouldn’t a recognized certificate or significant work experience in the field count as qualifications to teach adults? I’d rather hire a Master Mechanic to teach automotive technology who has fixed cars for 15 years over a freshly minted BA adult-ed credentialed teacher. The state needs to re-examine teacher requirements as it relates to teaching adults over the age of 18. Adult Education Matters! We need to support it with needed funds AND qualified teachers.

  7. David Breedlove 2 years ago2 years ago

    As an instructor involved in 'Life Long Learning' courses at both Community College and Adult Education levels on the Monterey Peninsula, I am concerned that I don't see reference in this discussion to non-vocational and non-ESL offerings. Specifically, I refer to projects that should be more available in areas of interest to seniors, such as the Gentrain program at Monterey Peninsula College -- a 'humanities' course -- as well as others in … Read More

    As an instructor involved in ‘Life Long Learning’ courses at both Community College and Adult Education levels on the Monterey Peninsula, I am concerned that I don’t see reference in this discussion to non-vocational and non-ESL offerings. Specifically, I refer to projects that should be more available in areas of interest to seniors, such as the Gentrain program at Monterey Peninsula College — a ‘humanities’ course — as well as others in technology areas.

    My understanding was that a discussion was under way to define who among the various levels of public education in California would be responsible for what areas of adult-ed/lifelong-learning. AB 1846 seems like the appropriate place for that discussion.

  8. Connie Pekedis 2 years ago2 years ago

    1. I agree that the additional funding is needed. We are currently receiving only a portion of what we received before the tier funding. For our district it is about 50% less than what we had before the recession. That means that we have cut the class time for all of our ESL and HSD classes. We have also discontinued our summer classes in ESL and HSD. 2. The additional funding is also needed because … Read More

    1. I agree that the additional funding is needed. We are currently receiving only a portion of what we received before the tier funding. For our district it is about 50% less than what we had before the recession. That means that we have cut the class time for all of our ESL and HSD classes. We have also discontinued our summer classes in ESL and HSD.
    2. The additional funding is also needed because if the costs go up and the money stays the same, then services are lost. For example, our adult teachers have not had pay raises since the recession. We have not been able to update materials for 8 years, and it goes on.
    3. We have the credentials that are appropriate for our students. In fact our credentials include classes in how to teach and work with adult students. A master’s degree in something like English does not include any classes in how to teach.
    4. As to the consortium – It will take at least 2 or 3 years to get all of them working. Also, out of the monies that are being given to the Adult Schools, some of that money is staying with the consortium to handle all the adult schools and colleges working together.
    5. Another point is that the AEBG (Adult Education Block Grant) has come with its own set of reporting requirements which will require either more staff time or additional staff to complete. I was recently told that the money is considered an “allocation,” but I have never seen an allocation with so many strings. It has requirements that are a combination of the WIOA and Perkins grants requirements. And not every adult school receives WIOA and/or Perkins money.
    6. Patty Lopez, thank you for putting forward this legislation – it is vital funding to support the students of our state.

  9. george Porter 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thanks to Ms. Frey for continuing to cover this important topic and I agree with Mr. Mears comments about the underfunding of adult ed. That said, the article fails to correct an alarming error in interpretation of the joint CDE/CCC report it mentions. The interpretation suggests that the fewer number of students being served today than before the recession is 800,000 while in fact it is at least 1 million and perhaps as high as … Read More

    Thanks to Ms. Frey for continuing to cover this important topic and I agree with Mr. Mears comments about the underfunding of adult ed. That said, the article fails to correct an alarming error in interpretation of the joint CDE/CCC report it mentions. The interpretation suggests that the fewer number of students being served today than before the recession is 800,000 while in fact it is at least 1 million and perhaps as high as 1.2 million.

    The discrepancy arises because the 2015 joint report (http://californiacommunitycolleges.cccco.edu/Portals/0/FlipBooks/2015-Adult-Education/2015_AB86_AdultEducation_ADA.pdf) only takes into account student populations currently funded through the AEBG. Before the recession the adult education apportionment supported 10 programs and three of these are simply ineligible for funding through the new source and two more have been severely restricted. Across the 3 years preceding the recession, in the K-12 adult school system alone these now decimated programs accounted for roughly 22.5% of a total enrollment hovering just above 1.2 million. That’s 270,000 students (http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/ae/po/cefadulted.asp).

    The vast majority of these students, especially older adults, are simply no longer served by the adult schools and new policies at the community colleges no doubt swell these numbers appreciably. Because they are no longer counted in our post-recession world, does that mean that these students no longer exist or that their educational needs have somehow disappeared?

    Clearly this is not the case.

  10. george pursley 2 years ago2 years ago

    In the current budget, every other level (K-12, CSU, UC, CC) had their funding increased. The Adult Schools suffered more during the Great Recession cuts. It is on life support, where it still exists. A large part of its program is ESL for some of the poorest members of the community. and the need is greater than ever!

  11. G Roggeman 2 years ago2 years ago

    Pacific Grove Adult Education is an important part of our community. The services provided enhance the well being and quality of life of residents near and far.

  12. La Verne Baker Leyva 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you for covering important information re. Adult Education. Life-long learning benefits and ensures a healthier community for all of us. Adult Ed makes education accessible to folks who might otherwise not be able to attend classes and improve their quality of life. Thanks for the update on AB1846!

  13. Tanya R. Fadem 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you for covering this important topic!

  14. Portia La Ferla 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you for your coverage of this important topic. The adult schools are doing heroic work with threadbare funding. We have waiting lists of students that we cannot serve. Our facilities have been neglected since the economic crisis, and the current funding leave no room for improving them. The new model of consortium funding require extensive coordination and more data collection (beyond the extensive data on learning gains adult education agencies have been providing … Read More

    Thank you for your coverage of this important topic. The adult schools are doing heroic work with threadbare funding. We have waiting lists of students that we cannot serve. Our facilities have been neglected since the economic crisis, and the current funding leave no room for improving them. The new model of consortium funding require extensive coordination and more data collection (beyond the extensive data on learning gains adult education agencies have been providing for many years), and curriculum development. These are important functions but their costs take away from funding for instruction. The unresolved issues that Debra Jones highlights need to be resolved at the state level, not by adult education providers. The wait and see attitude is jeopardizing the schools that remain.

  15. Heidi 2 years ago2 years ago

    All adults have a right and human need for education to expand themselves as people, to connect with others, to explore new fields of knowledge. It's ignorant to assume that once someone graduates and gets a job that further education is unnecessary. Even though my school district, Sweetwater Union High School District, ended its Older Adults program, when I personally teach senior citizens art or English, I see that yearning in their eyes and … Read More

    All adults have a right and human need for education to expand themselves as people, to connect with others, to explore new fields of knowledge. It’s ignorant to assume that once someone graduates and gets a job that further education is unnecessary. Even though my school district, Sweetwater Union High School District, ended its Older Adults program, when I personally teach senior citizens art or English, I see that yearning in their eyes and burn in their spirit to learn more, to reach new heights as people, to connect with other students who share a common goal. Only those who prefer mass ignorance in people, boxing people into a worker role in society, could be against expanding adult ed.

    Replies

    • Kristen Pursley 2 years ago2 years ago

      I so agree Heidi! The worker role is important, but if we focus too narrowly on that we miss out on some of the most important benefits a lifelong education can provide.

  16. Cynthia Eagleton 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you for covering Adult Education, the need for more funding, the issue of credentialing and AB1846. I think the importance of Adult Education can be measured by the strength and size of the movement to save and renew it after it was devastated by categorical flexibility. Adult School students, as a group, face more obstacles than students in any other branch of public education. Linguistic and economic challenges are the norm. There … Read More

    Thank you for covering Adult Education, the need for more funding, the issue of credentialing and AB1846.

    I think the importance of Adult Education can be measured by the strength and size of the movement to save and renew it after it was devastated by categorical flexibility.

    Adult School students, as a group, face more obstacles than students in any other branch of public education. Linguistic and economic challenges are the norm. There is no formal representation for Adult School/Ed students such as there is for UC students and other branches of Higher Ed. Until the final phase of the AB86 Workgroup, no Adult Education student in the history of California had ever sat on a state decision making body such as UC students do through the UC Regent system. And yet, in spite of their obstacles and in spite of the fact there was no formal means for them to speak, Adult School students have rallied – over and over – for years – to save their schools and programs and see them adequately funded. They circulated and signed petitions; organized and attended rallies; phone banked; wrote letters and emails; wore Red for Adult Ed, and did any number of other actions, all while dealing with numerous and very real challenges, often while being told that a good outcome was impossible, they were asking for too much, Brown would never agree to what they wanted.

    Similarly though not to the same extent, Adult School teachers did not have the kind of recognition and respect given other teachers in either the K-12 or the Higher Ed system. There is no Academic Senate for Adult School teachers, such as there is for Community Colleges. And similarly, when Adult School teachers tried to save their schools and programs or the state funding for the full mission of Adult Education, they were told they were asking for too much, that a good result was impossible, they should accept Brown’s terms – which at one point were that the system should be run by the Community Colleges – they should stop wasting their time trying to save what couldn’t be saved.

    Adult School administrators were put in the terrible position of having to decide what programs to cut, which teachers to lay off, and how to convince floundering K12 districts that they should not use the flexed Adult Ed funds to keep their K12 programs going. On their own time, they met with each other to share and create plans and strategies to keep their ships afloat, or in worst case scenarios, their lifeboats.

    In general, it was a terrible time.

    And yet, through it all, people did not give up. Students, staff, and administrators stubbornly kept saying, “Adult Education matters,” working in every way they could think of, to get that message to the public, the Legislature, the DOF, and Brown.

    Why would people do such a thing?

    Just to save their jobs? While an argument could be made for that – at least with administrators since they make more money and to some extent, for teachers, as well – there are plenty of cases where an industry has been devastated – the automobile industry comes to mind – and yet people did not continue to rally for it for years.

    People continue to work for something, even in the face of hardship, only when something really, really matters.

    And Adult Education does.

    Those of us who have been part of that movement don’t blink anymore when told that something is impossible. We have learned to understand that what the speaker really means, “It’s impossible for me to see it, either because I am against it on principle or because my deep-rooted hopelessness colors my perception of everything, not just this issue.”

    Those who struggle with real hardship know something else: Hopelessness is a luxury. It’s not the people at the bottom who are “hopeless.” It’s the people in the middle. When you’re at the bottom – which is where many in Adult Ed have been at some point in their lives – you know the value and power of hope and it’s handmaiden, hard work. Those are your oars. To give them up is to give up everything – something which, unlike those people suffering from bad food on cruise ships, or bad weather on a yacht, you cannot afford to do.

    Assembly Member Patty Lopez knows that. That’s why, even when folks thought it was impossible, she was elected to office. She’s not afraid of taking on challenges. She’s not looking for a sure thing. She’s looking for a good thing, something of true value that serves the people.

    Adult Education is definitely that.

  17. Jack Carroll 2 years ago2 years ago

    Adult Education presents an opportunity for improvement to many of our neighbors. Increased funding means increased opportunities. I believe that is something we can all agree with and I believe it is something we all want.

  18. Janet Johnson 2 years ago2 years ago

    How can the state justify keeping adult schools, which suffered more than any other branch of education during the recession years, in a state of perpetual want? With six million Californians in need of the basic literacy services adult schools provide, and only 1.5 million served by community colleges and adult schools together, there can be no justification for starving adult schools and leaving their students without services. We would like to be able … Read More

    How can the state justify keeping adult schools, which suffered more than any other branch of education during the recession years, in a state of perpetual want? With six million Californians in need of the basic literacy services adult schools provide, and only 1.5 million served by community colleges and adult schools together, there can be no justification for starving adult schools and leaving their students without services.

    We would like to be able to turn our determination and dedication away from the sheer struggle to survive day to day and towards giving our students what they need to thrive. AB 1846, if it passes, could give us what we need to do that.

  19. Alene Deyein 2 years ago2 years ago

    Providing adult education is key to helping our adults, and by extension their children, achieve success.

  20. Kristen Pursley 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you so much for covering this important topic. It's important to realize that adult schools have been struggling to survive on inadequate funding for eight years -- ever since 2008. From 2008 to 2013 funding for adult schools was in free fall under Categorical Flexibiity. When the state stepped in to save adult schools with a Maintenance of Effort mandate, it only required districts to fund their adult schools at whatever low rate … Read More

    Thank you so much for covering this important topic. It’s important to realize that adult schools have been struggling to survive on inadequate funding for eight years — ever since 2008. From 2008 to 2013 funding for adult schools was in free fall under Categorical Flexibiity. When the state stepped in to save adult schools with a Maintenance of Effort mandate, it only required districts to fund their adult schools at whatever low rate they were funding them at in 2013, and that rate was locked in for two more years until the Maintenance of Effort expired in 2015. Then the Adult Education Block Grant continued the austerity by funding adult schools at the same rate their districts had been funding them in 2013. Adult school funding has been increased by not one penny since 2008, even though adult schools were very hard hit by the recession and every other branch of education has received an increase. Thank you to Patty Lopez for introducing AB 1846 to address this issue.