The dismantling of California’s adult ed system

Photo by Dan Honda/Contra Costa Times

If you look around, you’ll see adult education coming apart, piece by piece. That was the message teachers, students and administrators gave state politicians this morning at a forum in Richmond.

Not only were adult ed programs cut by 22 percent this year, but this spring, the state Legislature gave school districts the go-ahead to spend the money as they wished.

Faced with huge budget shortfalls, districts have been doing just that. According to a new survey taken by the California Council for Adult Education, 85 percent of Bay Area school districts have used at least some adult ed money to balance their 2009-10 books.

Alameda and Contra Costa counties alone are serving 15,000 fewer students this fall as a result of all of these cutbacks, according to the council.

Adult education classes include English, basic literacy, GED, high school diploma, parenting and career tech. Historically, they provided enrichment and fitness programs for older adults and training programs for the disabled, though many of those classes were eliminated this year.

So far, Oakland school officials haven’t dipped into the adult ed pot. But like other districts, OUSD’s fiscal stresses have been temporarily eased by federal stimulus aid. In the coming months, the school district will have to cut $27 million from its 2010-2011 budget, making it harder to leave that fund (about $11.5 million or more of state money, according to its director) untouched.

What should happen next? At today’s forum, several people stressed that adult schools serve a much different need than community colleges (which are also under a great deal of strain), and cautioned against merging the two systems.

Brigitte Marshall, director of Oakland Career and Adult Education, says the answer might be to separate adult schools from school districts and to create a structure similar to that of a Regional Occupational Program.

“We have to start the conversation now about what the system should look like,” she said. “If that means a completely different funding mechanism and a completely different structure, then so be it.”

What do you think?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    This is not a happy situation. Adult Ed serves people who need rehab after going to defective public high schools that fail to correct bad thinking, bad morals and bad culture. It also handles the Mexican Invasion of adult zero generation, 1st generation and 2nd + generation students who even if they were willing (and most of them weren’t) could not absorb English & enough American Mores to function in our society. Much of the population I see involved in adult ed also have mental problems and personality disorders that were not diagnosed, treated or corrected in adolescence. In the adult years 20 to 40 they have been Dx’ed and are being worked on, and it’s time for the patient to get rudimentary education now that they have learned how to sit still and behave in a classroom (and the babies have been born also..).

    This population have needs below the Jr College level. Adult Education is part of their rehab. It is part of these people starting to support themselves and insinuate themselves into the workforce.

    And as much as this costs it’s far far less than county jail beds, state prison beds, and state hospital beds. The taxpayers should expect to fund at least a reasonable number of seats in adult ed. Like the public secondary schools there is a need for the taxpayer to see that the money is reasonably limited and well spent. Working people and their families do not want to fund any kind of a welfare system so that potheads and baby factories can be made comfortable while the taxpayers work 2 jobs.

    Maybe Adult Ed should be taken away from the Educrats and given to the control of the labor unions and the industry councils. The Union apprentice schools and programs are known for not tolerating slackers and weeding them out.

    Maybe we need “Charter” Adult Ed schools.

    Whatever the arrangement is, Adult Schools that take students reasonably screened for commitment to change are a good value and important to society. It’s a form of social work that we need in this Brave New World.

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

    I worked briefly for Oakland’s adult ed program, mainly going to senior centers and nursing homes to observe. That was part of my training to work a susbstitute for them. Many of the teachers did not want an observer in their classroom even though I had a right to be there and had been assigned by their supervisor. So you should consider that perhaps a lot of the adult ed teachers do not want to cooperate with the system in order to have the minimum supervision necessary to keep a program going. So then what choice do they have but to cut the program if a teacher won’t even let an observer into the classroom? I don’t know any employer who gives an employee carte blanche to do whatever they want.