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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Help Save the Adult School

This is a guest blog post from my friend Cynthia, a teacher at the Adult School, run by the state. I met Cynthia when she taught a parent/child play course that was a wonderful opportunity for both my kids and me. The class was filled with immigrants learning English and learning about our country - learning about being better parents.

Cynthia's post is a call to action, so make sure to read down to see what you can do to help maintain the Adult School system.

Here is Cynthia's post:

Adult Schools are one of the most cost-effective educational systems around. And we are in jeopardy. Here’s what Adult Schools do:

· We teach immigrants English, citizenship skills, job skills, how to get involved in their communities, help their children succeed in school, and get involved in their children’s education.

· We provide job skills classes to anyone over 18. We provide free or low-cost classes which help re-employ and re-train people in an extremely cost-effective way. (We save the state money: we create taxpayers, not unemployment numbers.)

· We help young adults aged 18 to 22 get their GED or High School Diploma. We give them job skills and vocational counseling. (We help kids who might be in trouble get on the right path to success. We save the state money: someone with a job who pays taxes… not someone in prison we’re paying taxes for.)

· We provide parents and childcare providers with education about child development and safe childcare. We promote literacy, school involvement, and health. (We save the state money: kids do well in school… versus failing and needing extra help and state involvement. Child abuse rates go down. Mental and physical health increases.)

· We provide Older Adults with classes that keep them mentally, physically, and socially active, which keeps them healthier and lowers for their need for medical interventions. (We lower medical costs for people over fifty.)

Sounds pretty good, right? It is. Adult Education has been around in California for 150 years.
We serve 1.5 million students and employ 15,000 people. And we do so in an extremely cost effective way.

Adult Schools are funded at a lower rate per student hour than K-12 or community college and therefore are a very cost effective way to serve the most difficult to serve communities, such as immigrant communities and young adults who did not finish high school, in order to prepare them for jobs, college, etc.

So what’s going on?

Well, we have a budget crisis. You know about that. We’re one of the top economies in the world – for now. But when both our K-12 educational system and our Adult Education program receive less money than almost every state in the nation, that’s not going to last.

Right now, the state gives Adult Ed money and Adult Ed manages it very well. Schwartzenegger wants to let K-12 districts do whatever they want or need to do with categorical money (the Adult School runs on categorical funds).

That means that a high school, which might be desperate for money because it is not properly funded and because property taxes are dropping, might need or choose to close the local Adult School and use that money to keep the K-12 system going. Asking people to choose between kids and adults is asking the wrong question. Educational systems serve each other.

For a low cost, we help parents help their children succeed in K-12. We put parents to work. We help young adults get back on track, finish their high school education, and get a job or enroll in Community College, vocational school, or a 4 year college or university. We give immigrants the English skills they need so they can go to a Community College or 4 year school and take academic classes and succeed, getting a job and/or a degree. Keeping ESL within Adult Schools frees up community colleges to focus on the impacted programs that help students transfer to 4 year schools. Both Community Colleges and 4 year colleges are upset that students are not prepared for college work. We prepare them.

We don’t need to be pitted against each other.

Adult School funds should not be used to “fix” the K-12 system. We are willing to make changes to survive this crisis… we’re not asking for special treatment… we’re not taking an entitled stance.

So… what am I asking you to do?

I am asking you to write a letter – not an email. One letter is worth twenty five emails.

Can you tell that story of someone impacted by the Adult School? Someone who benefitted from ESL classes or citizenship classes? Someone who had help getting a GED?

Please look up your State Senator and Assembly Member and write them a letter or call them.

We need to act because the Legislature must come to a decision now. The pressure is on them – and us – to act.

There is no “Big Government” to complain about here. We are the government.

We, the people, elect and must communicate to our elected officials.

Speak up now. It’s your future.

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