A new coalition to bring back adult education

a class at the Edward Shands Adult School, which closed this year. Tribune file photo by Lane Hartwell

If you read this blog regularly, you probably know that adult education in California has been decimated in recent years. You might also know that the Oakland school board voted in June to shift millions of dollars of adult ed funds to the district’s child care programs, which the governor in May had threatened to cut.

(Not all of the Oakland school district’s 11th-hour cuts went through. The district tried to use an obscure ed code provision to lay off some of its tenured adult education teachers though the employees had not received March 15 pink slip notices. The layoffs were overturned, and many of those adult education teachers are in computer labs, working in a new online high school completion program.)

Now that the long-awaited state budget contains much of the child care funding the governor had proposed to slash (with the exception of CalWORKs child care subsidies for those who have been working and off cash aid for two years or more), Oakland’s adult education advocates are watching closely to see if some of those funds will be restored.

Jessie Ortiz, a veteran adult ed teacher, has organized the Bring Back Adult Education Coalition, a new group that includes teachers, students and two local organizations that support refugees. The coalition is holding its first rally and press conference today at Edward Shands, which closed this year.

(Below photos courtesy of Victoria Carpenter)

Adult education rally on Monday. Photos courtesy of Victoria Carpenter.

Ortiz said she wants to see the district rebuild some of its programs and to reopen at least one of its two main adult education centers — Edward Shands in East Oakland and Neighborhood Centers. Not long ago, there were 250 adult education teachers in Oakland; now there are just 52.

Ortiz taught ESL for 20 years before learning that she’d be teaching GED classes in Spanish at the Bond Street Annex. Oakland’s adult education program eliminated most of its ESL and career technical education classes this year, though it offers English classes to parents at a growing number of elementary schools as part of its Family Literacy Program.

A sign at Monday's adult education rally, held Monday at the closed Edward Shands Adult School campus in Oakland.Most courses for seniors and the disabled were discontinued in 2009, as part of an earlier wave of cuts.

“It’s really hard being a part of something that’s falling apart like this,” Ortiz said.

High school students who need extra credits to graduate and dropouts seeking a high school diploma will be offered computer-based — rather than classroom-based — courses. The district purchased OdysseyWare for that purpose, and the program has been installed on the Fremont, Skyline, Oakland High and Oakland Tech high school campuses. (For more information about the High School Completion Program, call 510-879-3037.)

Brigitte Marshall, the head of Oakland’s adult education program, didn’t sound optimistic that the school board and administration would fully fund adult education as they have in the past. California school districts — for now, anyway — are allowed to use adult ed funds to support K-12 programs.

“There are many, many competing priorities,” Marshall said. “I’m just trying to be realistic about what we’re being confronted with as a district.”

Do you think the Oakland school district should rebuild its adult education programs? Which ones?

Katy Murphy

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

  • Nextset

    Adult Education would be really nice to have, it can make the difference between unemployment and employment.

    It’s not clear to me that it always does this anymore. It used to, now I think the deficits the adult problem children have are typically too great. But hope springs eternal.

    The question is whether we will strip the K-12 programs in order to fund hope for proven losers. I don’t want to do that.

    The way the Brave New World is unfolding is that we only have one shot at schooling students before age 18. Once the student ages out, and is an adult who can’t read and write or have an typical 18 year old command of school subjects – it’s too expensive and too late to do a lot for them. If we have money left over maybe we can do something. But this is the age of municipal financial collapse. There is no money. What budget we have should be spent on those where it will be effective. Not on proven losers.

    Charity belongs in private hands, such as the Salvation Army. Pouring too much taxpayer money into remedial education (which is what adult education is) carries a moral hazard. People who misbehave (regardless of fault) cannot command resources as adults. They have to work for those resources. Or pay for them. Childhood is over. And you value what you pay for, not what is given for free.

    Employers can provide on the job & remedial training, as can unions, churches and private organizations. Taxpayers pay for basic education once for the children. It’s not a continuing guarantee and if we don’t protect school budgets we will soon have to ration high school education.

  • OaklandNeighbor

    I agree with you Nextset if ppl didn’t take advantage of what was given to them for free during their early stages of life, why should they get it now. Gosh ppl want everything for free now!Dropouts made their choices now if you want education work work work and pay for it…

    *Free Childcare
    *Free Food and Rent $(Welfare)
    *Free Adult Education
    *Free Formula (WIC)
    What else do you guys want for FREE?
    Meanwhile all this hard working ppl are working their butts off to survive and freebie loaders have no worries!
    When will USA stop giving away Tax payers money.
    Soon we will be a third world country!

    “I say NO to Adult education!” you want it well pay for it! simple!!!

  • JR

    “When will USA stop giving away Tax payers money”?


    Haven’t you heard, taxpayers are an inexhaustible revenue stream.

  • Oakland Teacher

    It is tiresome when people automatically assume the worst. So many of the people who take advantage of adult education are parents who need computer literacy skills in order to be employable or help their children use computers. They are also parents whose second language is English: they need to learn English in order to help their children with homework as well as to help them be employable.

    Many of the people who take adult ed classes were seniors living in senior centers or seniors who are trying to keep their minds and bodies active as they age. They are veterans of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. They are the people who checked your groceries for 40 years. They are the people who were your teachers, your parents’ friends, and your neighbors. Why would you assume they are people who never gave back to the community?

    Most of the people who access adult education live on fixed retirement or very limited incomes. They could not pay for it. Remember that ignorance is actually far more costly than education. It is well known that the more education that parents have, the more success children will have in school.

    I hope you are not my neighbor. Hate is ugly.

  • Hot r

    The reason we pay for adult education is to keep these young adults employable and out of jail. However I do agree that between educating the young and the old we must choose the young. Be careful Nextset. That is the same talk Ebenezer Scrooge gave before he was visited by three ghosts.

  • east oakland teacher

    One correction for Katy – we have English classes for parents at a *shrinking* number of K-12 schools. Last year it was 26 schools, and this year it is only 18. That cut is on top of closing the two adult schools and pulling out of a large number of community centers, churches, and non-profit agencies, from Chinatown to Eastlake to Fruitvale to East Oakland.

  • Nextset

    Hot R: Perhaps you assume employability is a result of education being poured on like salt. That thinking is much of the problem we have with the public school systems getting a ton of money to produce unemployable “students”.

    Employability is all about discipline and attitude. Employers can train for their specific needs. They cannot train for honesty, sobriety, responsibility and that kind of thing.

    If the schools teach indiscipline – which I say is the foremost product of the urban public schools, their products are ruined.

    This “adult education” thing some want us to divert K-12 money into is more mis-education of druggies, drunks, retards, and losers. Or at least that’s how it looks on the ground. Plus I am disinclined to give any more money to “educators” who don’t get it about discipline. If the “students” are so screwed up at 20, money spent on classroom work for them is not as productive as money spent on normal 12 year olds. They can work in menial jobs if any jobs until they can find someone to pay their own way for something else. They need no taxpayer education to be rocket scientists.

    In other words, I’m saying the public dole ios about to dry up big time. Adults can be left to live or die as best as they can. No more treasury for them. Until times get better.

    We cannot have open borders & freedom to lie about, and any kind of welfare state. To do otherwise multiplies the parasites until the host collapses and dies.

    Your thinking about older and retired people doesn’t fit adult education – the Jr. Colleges are there for people who want post K-12 enrichment or advanced coursework. I’m not referring to that. I’m referring to the quaint notion that taxpayers are required to pay for basic or remedial education for adults.

    Absolutely not. They had one chance when they were young. That boat has sailed.

  • OaklandNeighbor

    @Oakland Teacher
    Lazy Parents is what produces under achieving kids. If your a teacher here in Oakland you should know this by now. Kids live a block away from the school they attend yet for some reason they’re late to class and what’s worst absent for unexplainable reasons.I personally know parents that have elementary education only. They have their children at charter schools that have a strict discipline when it comes to attendance. Those charter school are some of the highest performing school here in Oakland.
    If we continue feeling sorry for this ppl I’m afraid that our country is in for a big change.
    All I’m saying is that the K-12 need the $$$ for classroom material, and instead of funding adult ed. I would rather see the $$$ going into K-12 classrooms.
    “If you want adult education, pay for it!”

  • Concerned teacher

    What better way to spend money than to help others, especially those in need. What better way to spend your life than to act in compassion. What better way to help the world than to make space for individuals to grow and thrive.
    Much better than waging war in Iraq, Afghanistan,spending money for machines and more machines.
    Make space for humanity in yourself, your heart, this world.

  • Nextset

    Concerned Teacher: You don’t get to dictate to other how they spend their money.

    “Humanity” may be your concept for waste and decadence. It’s not what I say that word means.

    Maybe you should have a look at “The virtue of selfishness” by Ayn Rand. Or just study economics. This is a supposedly free country and other people do not dance to your tune. Your concept of “help” is nothing other than domination, which is always backed up by a police state. Yes, you’d need that police state to collect the taxes and make sure the recipients of your “help” don’t get “discriminated” against as they tear their communities apart.

    And as far as “help the world” – by that do you mean interfere with the world?

    I rather think you are a statist, a socialist, a collectivist, a Marxist. You coat those concepts in terms of “helping” people until you dominate all life.

    No thanks. You can’t get elected, you can’t stay elected. Your policy only brings doom, across history and even now. Those of us old enough to remember what life was like in the mid 20th century prefer the opportunities then to the straightjackets being passed around now.

  • Bob Mandel

    We Adult teachers strongly believe that with the District having received more than it expected in the State budget, significant parts of the AE program can be immediately restored. All educators agree that a parent who is going to school herself or himself is much more likely to be engaged in helping their child in school; and a family with an employed parent—helped by the English or job training taught in AE– provides a much more stable home environment which also contributes directly to a young person’s school success.

    There is another way that ESL and other adult classes can be offered right now. Over a dozen of us have been assigned to the High School Credit Recovery Program. This serves young people who have dropped out and want to come back to get a High School diploma or those currently enrolled who need to make-up credits in classes they previously failed. The program is tremendously important in a city where about 35% of our youth never finish High School.

    At the same time, these classes are heavily underenrolled, particularly from 10:45-3:30. Adult Ed teachers through our union (OEA) have formally suggested to the OUSD Administration that a certain percentage of us who are willing be reassigned to teach ESL either through the Family Literacy program or in ESL classes open to all. Thus students currently enrolled in Credit Recovery (with lots of room for expansion) and students who currently have no opportunity for school, particularly in ESL, could both be offered classes.

  • Nextset

    Bob Mandel: Why should the taxpayers be paying for any of this?

    And what is the problem with 35% of “the youth” not finishing high school? At least that percentage of Oakland youth do not have the cognitive ability to manage CA High School coursework. They should not have a diploma. If the diploma is to mean anything, people must fail and be denied diplomas because the don’t have the chops to earn one. You don’t get the diploma for just showing up. These people you speak of need to get out and work at whatever menial job they can find and work their way up from there with on the job training and experience and any classroom work they want to go to and pay for on their own time.

    The educational budget we are going to have for K-12 is to be spent there, not on pursuing adult failures and pouring taxpayer money over their heads.

  • Nextset

    Having said the above I wouldn’t mind limited and demonstration projects being put on periodically (not permanently) for adult ed. The point is that when childhood’s over, the adults in question are on their own and the public treasury owes them absolutely nothing. That message needs to be sent out early and often.

    They can join the Salvation Army or the US Army if they can’t make it in the Brave New World. They have no rights to any public support or public funds.

    To do otherwise is to invite generations of welfare parasites, like we have since welfare was turned into and entitlement in the mid 1960’s Great Society legislation. Now that we can see the error in that it’s time to cut back and cut off the dole.

  • Marilyn Noble

    Wait a minute. Whom are we talking about? I have been an ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher for decades. I have taught both elementary school children and the adult members of their families, and I am here to tell you that one of the strongest influences on a child’s educational career is his or her family’s positive engagement with the schools. Other things being equal, the more that the families are involved with education, both their own and their children’s, the more likely that their children will succeed in school and go on to lead productive lives.

    The other group I have taught is adult refugees. These people were invited here by our government to have a chance at a decent life after being denied that opportunity in their county of origin . Because of the turmoil often surrounding their need to leave their homeland, many of these people have few skills, practically no money, and no way to learn the language of this country unless they have access to adult education.

    These are the people I have taught in numerous school districts across California. I believe from the bottom of my heart that they deserve a chance to better their opportunities to participate in the life of this country and to give their children a decent shot at the American dream.

    A veteran ESL teacher

  • Nextset

    My family sponsored refugees from the iron curtain during the 1960s. They didn’t go on welfare, and I believe the terms of our sponsorship was that may parents would be financially liable to the government if they did. She found work as a housekeeper and he worked as a plumber and gardener. They had nothing but the clothes on their backs. No children, I think they were in their mid 20s.

    They are Millionaires now. Real Estate, you know. Not sure how they did it. Other refugees here without any family I’ve met. They were parents of children I went to school with. Millionaires. He became an engineer, she a bay area chemist, teacher and politician. They did no remedial ed but did go to state universities. Not that you mention it I’ve run into a lot of penniless immigrants growing up. I met Joyce Kennard – she’s on the CA Supreme Court. I believe she came to the USA as a refugee and wound up in Los Angeles with no relatives and a false leg, pennyless. She went to state schools also. The list goes on.

    Remedial Ed, Adult Ed and ESL is not a mandated service of the taxpayers. Anybody who wants that can pay for it or go to church schools. Or get it from private charities.

    Our public funds are for the public school districts K-12 and the state colleges and universities which are not for illegal aliens either. It’s been this way for 100 years. We do not need to change this or add extra taxpayer funded doles to refugees. Whoever sponsors refugees can pay for them themselves. And one here they can work and see to their own arrangements. Refugees do get to attend school alongside citizens. So they are well provided for. And they seem to be doing just fine, actually better than the black folks I see. So you see, we need not worry about them (refugees) at all. Worry about the blacks. They are the endangered species – especially the black males.

    No more taxes, no more services paid for by the taxpayers.

    Brave New World!

  • Nextset

    Sorry about the typos above. The iron curtain couple made their money in apartment buildings I hears. The bay area is full of refugees doing just fine. Africans, Eastern Europeans Central and South Americans.

    No, we don’t need to use the treasury to provide services, they can work it out with their sponsors – or find someone to take care of them privately such as the churches. the have for generations and the ties they make to their sponsors ensure no loud music and loud clothing, etc. Not like the home grown ghetto trash who think they can say and do whatever they want and take money from the treasury at the same time.

    People value nothing they get for free and act the worse for it. No more government benefit schemes, roll back all the programs we have set up since 1960.

  • Nextset

    typos again!