Advocates Fight to Save Adult Education in Los Angeles

Mar 15, 2012

By Marcie Foster and Elizabeth Kenefick

Despite an organized effort to persuade the city to preserve adult education funding, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board on Tuesday approved a preliminary budget that would decimate one of the nation’s largest programs serving adult students. All adult schools in the city could be closed and at least 1,800 faculty and staff could lose their jobs if the city fails to find revenue to fill the funding gap before it finalizes the city budget in June.

Word of the drastic proposal to eliminate funding sparked a significant grassroots response to save the program, which plays a vital community role by providing adult education (including English language services).  During the previous few weeks, the SaveAdultEd Campaign mobilized thousands of people to voice their support through phone calls, letters, and most recently at a rally during the contentious vote on March 13. Campaign leaders and adult education advocates also participated in a guest blog discussion series, Cut the Excuses Not Education!, hosted by the National Coalition for Literacy leading up to the rally. In spite of these efforts, the board voted to cut funding.(Photos Source: SaveAdultEd)

The proposed adult education funding cut represents a broader trend among states and localities to disinvest in adult education to fill budget shortfalls. Nowhere has this been more evident than in California, where a ruling by the legislature in 2009 gave local school boards increased flexibility to determine program funding allocations in their districts. Subsequently, state funding for adult education services declined by half—from $754 million in 2007-8 to less than $400 million in 2009-10. Other states have slashed state funding, implemented tuition or fees for students to generate revenue, or proposed policy reforms that could threaten program quality.

Exacerbating this trend is flat federal funding for adult education (Title II of the Workforce Investment Act) which, in fact, has declined 17 percent over the last decade after accounting for inflation.

More than 93 million adults need basic skills services, yet current funding levels only serve approximately 2 million. Low-skill, low-income workers have the highest rates of unemployment and have been hardest hit by the recent recession and jobs crisis. Cuts to this already-starved system that provides vulnerable workers with skills they need to access jobs or further education and training are short-sighted and could undermine our nation’s recovery. The SaveAdultEd campaign in Los Angeles should serve as a reminder to policymakers across the country that adult education is a valuable investment in our current and future workforce.

To view more photos and videos of this campaign, visit the SaveAdultEd blog >>


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