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)
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.
“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?