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?