A safety net, unraveling before our eyes

photo of a final communications class at Lifelong Medical Care’s adult day care center by D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group

Today marks the end of hundreds of adult education programs for seniors and the disabled — in Oakland, alone. Across the state, classes that once provided a source of needed stimulation for the elderly are falling by the wayside.

One reason behind this phenomenon is a 15-20 percent cut in state funding. But what really appears to be undermining some adult school programs more than others is a policy shift. California school districts can now take from the adult education fund to cover their expenses. To prevent this from happening, many adult schools are favoring programs with a clear benefit to their school districts — diploma classes, parenting programs and the like — rather than classes for those with mid-stage dementia, for example.

I’ve received a number of calls today from people who are crushed by what’s happening. Some people felt that the Oakland adult education program overreacted and cut too much (254 classes have closed, 206 of which are for “older adults”), especially since the district — as of now — doesn’t plan to dip into the adult education fund next year.

What do you think? You can read the story here.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • OACE teacher

    The funding situation for Oakland Adult & Career Ed (OACE) is more complicated than meets the eye. It is not only a matter of k-12 not touching adult ed funds. Like adult schools throughout California, OACE is taking multiple hits to funding resources, starting with 15+ % decrease in funds, effectively immediately, as in this current 2008-09 school year. Next year, the budget must be further reduced by 4+ percent, all in all totaling about a nearly 20% reduction in funding.

    Furthermore, while adult ed used to generate funds through “ADA” (average daily attendance) monies, also effectively immediately, classes no longer generate revenue, no matter how many students are served. A class could have three students or thirty or a hundred; whatever the number, no funds will be generated by ADA. To some degree, unfortunately, this has reframed the perspective on what we offer, to whom we offer it, how many students “need” to be in a class to be able to offer it. It really calls almost everything into question.

    Instead of generating ADA based on the number of students served, adult ed will now be given a lump sum of money each year based on 2007-2008 enrollment. This will be true for the remainder of this year and the following four years.

    In addition to the loss of the ability to generate additional ADA revenue, at any time, k-12 high level administrators can decide to take any portion or all of adult ed monies at any point in the future. This is known as “categorical flexibility,” meaning funds that, up until this recent budget, restricted to particular uses and programs, are now available for any use the district chooses.

    While there are other funding sources that the district cannot touch (to my understanding), the ADA hit is huge.

    Having said the above, I still find it tragic to eliminate so many services to elders and others with limited mobility, resources, and disabilities. It is really quite shocking to think that over 250 classes serving hundreds or perhaps even a couple of thousand or more students who may have no other options, have simply ended. Is there a way these classes could have been kept open? Not only this year, but beyond? I don’t know enough about the OACE budget to know, but I do know that there is no way to make these cuts without severely negatively impacting so many students.

    The real problem, of course, is that as a society we have chosen to spend our funds bailing out banks and automakers, paying for military conflicts and building prisons. What should really be taking the hit during a budget crisis? It always turns out to be education, health care and social services, especially to the youngest and olders members of our society.

    Funny how it’s never the prisons. And yet, no one’s laughing.

  • John

    OACE teacher: Funny how some don’t think of the prisons and police as safety (containment) nets. Maybe some will think differently when a lack of funding seriously erodes those safety nets, maybe even some “elders and others with limited mobility, resources, and disabilities.”

    Yep, more purse, wallet, and life snatchers victimizing the weak and vulnerable with fewer cops to disuade em and fewer resources to contain em.

    Funny how our new BIG leader is championing policies that shrink the golden tax goose while enlarging the government hog that feeds it. It’s gonna impact what’s near and dear to many, not just you and those you serve.

    Today’s mega government stimulus will be tomorrow’s mega government debt and defecit that those now enrolled in K-12, and their offspring’s offspring will be paying for while getting much less for their tax dollars – including law and order and government services in their golden years. At least the current crop of elders have some happy (government funded) memories to smile about.

    Future generations won’t be smiling, or laughing. But don’t mind me, I’m just a right wing crazy pragmatist.

  • Nextset

    John is right about what is happening. You are going to see the De-Policing of the black & brown ghettos and the schools there will feel it. As the jails and prisons undergo massive release programs life in the cities will change fast. You will see more membership-only stores, more bulletproof glass, and you can forget about ever writing a check for merchandise.

    And for the black and brown kids, they are going to see themselves shut out of jobs and shopping opportunities. When society stops discouraging criminals the would-be victims finally learn how to protect themselves. The first line of protecting yourself is limiting who you talk to and who you do business with. Profiling, anyone? It’s already happening and it’s so subtle the lower class and the liberals don’t even realize what is occurring.

    Hotel chains now will not accept cash customers. No Plastic, no room. You can pay cash at checkout but you must have plastic to get the room and it must have funds available for not only the room charges but a significant security fee. Guess who doesn’t have plastic?? You can’t get on a plane without ID – trains are moving to adopt that also. Guess who doesn’t carry ID – driver’s licenses or State ID/Passports (at a far higher rate than avg)? When Marriott bars Smokers from it’s hotels they are actually barring a class of people – people they choose not to do business with. I approve and use that hotel chain frequently.

    As far as getting a job – just watch the numbers for some people, especially the new graduates who are not equipped (schooled) to compete in a tight job market.

    Things are changing fast and out public schools must teach it’s students how to survive in this Brave New World. That includes how to act, how to dress, how to speak, all the deportment issues as well as literacy, math skills, and research skills. The energy that was used for all this is now spent on teaching left wing politics.

  • ProStudent

    Are there more “bad” guys today than there were 100 years ago??? Why is it that we need so many jails? Give me a break. Let’s decriminalize drugs and use jails for real criminals and use police resources to get guns off of these streets–Russian military guns. Do you know any corner drug dealer who speaks Russian? Where are these coming from? Are there any coca farms in East Oakland?

  • Katherine Cox

    Of course there are more bad guys than 100 years ago. Back then, students went to school to learn and to better themselves, knowing that that was the way to get ahead. They were not rude and disrespectful to their teachers because they got caned if they were. In Oakland many of the students go to school because they have to, not because they want to. They have not had to suffer real deprivation – look how many have cell phones and the latest shoes and are overweight due to eating fast food. They don’t seem to realize that when they are out on their own, no one is going to hand them these things just because they, the ex-students without the diplomas- think they are entitled to them. So they will go out and take them – hence the criminals.

  • Nextset

    ProStudent: Of Course there are more bad guys now. Our government had produced them with the most diseugenic welfare policy in human history, courtesy of Johnson’s Great Society. The dregs of US Society have the most children now, the best have few.

    And the public schools get the dregs. Some of which are unable to take any kind of schooling and drop out rather quickly – or get institutionalized. Reproducing along the way… Then mix in a few generations of open borders to the 3rd world and see what your cities become.

    And as far as decriminalizing drugs – Maybe you haven’t seen a family deal with their kids on Meth yet. Maybe you haven’t run into Meth Users in the county hospital or the jails – or in the schools. We will no more decriminialize “drugs” than we’d give Vampires and Werewolves civil rights. Our society doesn’t want or need to allow the birth defects, the violence and the induced mental illness (they don’t recover when they stop using Meth).

    The drug freedom crowd is just another extension of the “we do whatever we want” crowd that believes they can somehow get society to let them live among us as they please. It’s not going to happen.

    Katherine is right. We had crime and criminals under control before the Great Society and we also kept a brake on their reproduction. It’s time to go back to what worked before. Corporal Punishment ala Malaysia and Singapore in the Juvenile Courts and in the Schools, and prisons run like Angola, La (slave plantations). We can use technology – as in posting all criminal records on the Internet – to control the activities of ex-cons and to discourage anyone from becoming one. And these tactics aren’t even expensive.

  • http://jeanswatercolors.blogspot.com Jean Womack

    I applied for a job with Oakland Adult ed. a couple of years ago. They told me to go observe classes in some of the rest homes. Most of the teachers did not want to be observed. I gave up on that pretty quickly.

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