by SAMANTHA GALLEGOS | Capitol Weekly | http://bit.ly/1E233xc
posted 01.20.2015 :: Adult education may get its first funding increase in the state budget after facing savage cuts during the years of recession and being forced to shutter scores of schools.
Financing adult education, like any K-14 program, was a protected part of the state budget up until 2008. But the plummet of the state economy forced school districts – facing cash shortfalls and equipped with new budgeting flexibility – to spend adult education funds elsewhere.
Advocates for adult education say they are finally seeing support in this year’s state budget.
“The sweeps continued through the years; they corroded adult education,” said Bob Harper, director of adult education at Campbell Union High School District in the greater San Jose area. “Some districts were valiant in their support of adult learning and would not reduce the programs more than they had to with the general cut, and kept their adult schools functioning. Other districts made other choices and swept all of the money, and some places actually closed their adult schools.”
The California Department of Education estimates 100 school districts have closed their adult schools since districts were permitted to use categorical flexibility in their budgets.
According to a 2012 report on adult education from the Legislative Analyst’s Office that used data from the Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems and California Community Colleges, around 1.5 million adult education students were served in 2009-2010.
Systems used to track attendance and report on learning outcomes had been frozen at that time. Harper said by 2012-2013 the number was unknown but speculation is probably as few as 500,000 students were served that year.
In Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2015-2016 proposed budget, he’s lined up an estimated $150 million more for adult education programs, which have been required in the last three budget cycles to maintain a spending at around $350 million. The unique funding scheme is called a “maintenance of effort,” meaning adult education isn’t a back to being categorical budget item that limits districts’ flexibility, but it’s also not a general purpose item that can be spent somewhere else.
The governor’s 2015-2016 budget allots $500 million for adult education and leaves the current structure of providing programs through school districts and the CCCs intact.
This slice of California’s education spending was stopped in its tracks in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, but districts were still not required to track and report their spending.
The California Council for Adult Education estimates the MOE spending was around $350 million, a decline of more than half of what was being dedicated to adult education in the 2007-2008 fiscal year.
Brown’s newly proposed budget emphasizes the value of adult education programs, which are provided by both K-12 adult schools and the community college system, are describing them as “an integral component of the state’s workforce development strategy.”
Students enrolled in these courses could be learning to speak English; studying to pass the oral and written exams for U.S. citizenship; earning their high school diploma; receiving job training; or acquiring skills in reading, writing, and mathematics in order to succeed on the collegiate level.
The governor’s 2015-2016 budget allots $500 million for adult education and leaves the current structure of providing programs through school districts and the CCCs intact, but in 2013 Brown proposed making the CCC system the lead agency for adult education. That suggestion did not sit well with some stakeholders and educators.
”Our students are more comfortable being here where they’re more close to home,” said Alice Yoshioka, a CCAE member and career tech teacher at Hacienda La Puente Unified School District in Los Angeles County. “It’s more familiar to them and the amount that they pay, the tuition and everything, it’s much less than what they would have to pay (at community colleges).”
A 2013 budget item established and funded 70 Adult Education Regional Consortia located across California, which are planning a better way to provide adult learning programs. The group is due to put out a report in March that will spell out the cost of providing adult education in different regions, fit will also serve as a guide for coordinating these services in the future in order to find savings.