CTA & You

Adult Education Programs at a Crossroads

“ We need to ensure all adult education programs contain the richness of courses necessary to help our students become contributing members of society.”

Should the Adult Education (AE) credential be eliminated so that anyone with a bachelor’s degree can teach AE? This is among recommendations from the state Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO), and it is generating opposition from AE teachers within CTA.

“Although the credentialing system for adult education in California is in need of reform, getting rid of the credential risks compromising the quality of education our adult education students currently receive,” says Ruth Luevand, who chairs CTA State Council’s Adult, Alternative, and Career Technical Education Committee, which does not support this proposal.

Adult schools offer high school diploma programs, in which adults can take high school subjects to complete their secondary degrees. Since credentialed teachers teach regular K-12 high school classes, she points out, those who teach AE high school subjects should be credentialed AE instructors.

“Also, Adult Basic Education (ABE), another adult school subject, is the equivalent of an elementary school education for adults,” says Luevand, a chemistry teacher at San Dimas High School and Bonita Unified Teachers Association president. “Adults in ABE classes generally need more skillful instruction, which is the intent of the adult education credential.”

Abolishing the AE credential would make it difficult for instructors at adult schools to also teach at community colleges.

Community college teachers with master’s degrees would not have to do additional coursework to teach at adult schools. But adult school teachers would not be able to teach for-credit AE classes at community colleges unless they hold a master’s degree. (Anyone with a bachelor’s degree can teach noncredit community college classes.)

“The problem is that movement between the two programs would lack reciprocity,” says Luevand.

Cutbacks and a big divide

The proposal to eliminate the AE credential adds more uncertainty to programs that have suffered from disrespect and cutbacks for decades.

After years of drastic cutbacks, AE entered Tier 3 status in the recession of 2009, landing at the bottom level of categorical funding. Districts were given the right to raid funding from Tier 3 programs for other purposes or shut down Tier 3 programs. During this time, many districts decimated once-thriving AE programs or dismantled them to fund other programs.

(The state does not have statistics on this; it only counts teacher layoffs, without tracking programs. And it should be noted that this funding system no longer exists under the new Local Control Funding Formula.)

In 2012, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed shifting all AE programs to community colleges within two years. Protest from teachers prompted Brown to relent and instead endorse Assembly Bill 86, part of which mandated development of regional consortia to oversee AE programs.

For example, the Contra Costa County Adult Education Consortium comprises nine members and many partners from throughout the county’s geographical boundary. Members include large and small school districts, a community college district, and the county office of education.

The 2015-16 state budget created the Adult Education Block Grant (AEBG), which provided $500 million in ongoing funding to the consortia. The governor proposes a $20.6 million (4.1 percent) increase in 2018-19. This cost-of-living adjustment still does not put adult education funding at the pre-recession levels.

However, adult education streamlining between K-12 and community colleges sought by the governor in AB 86 has not happened. According to a recent LAO report, “After five years, several key fiscal and policy inconsistencies remain across the two sets of providers. Most notably, adult programs offered by community colleges and adult schools have different funding rules, different fee policies, different instructor qualifications and different student identifiers.”

Funding equity and alignment

The LAO has made other recommendations, including:

  • Setting a uniform per-student funding rate for community colleges and adult schools.
  • Establishing a consistent fee policy.
  • Requiring all AE providers to coordinate with their AE consortia.
  • Alignment of assessment and student placement policies.

AdultEd_RLuevandThese raise more questions, says Luevand. For example, community colleges currently receive more funding for their programs than adult schools. That’s because in addition to AEBG funding, they receive $300 million in noncredit “apportionment” funding.

“The state should consider dedicated funding for AE programs at an amount that is equal to what community college noncredit programs receive, at the new per-pupil rate, so adult schools may be able to recover from the cuts they received during the last recession,” Luevand says.

“ We need to ensure all adult education programs contain the richness of courses necessary to help our students become contributing members of society.”
— Ruth Luevand, chair of CTA State Council’s Adult, Alternative, and Career Technical Education Committee

Luevand and the LAO both advocate for better data to be reported and collected to keep track of those in the system. The LAO report states that California currently lacks information about AE, including the extent of the current unmet needs in the state, how much providers are spending on services, and the quality of those services.

“Since serving immigrant adults in need of English language skills has been at the core of the K-12 adult education, the AEBG does not expressly provide for any metric or accountability for student success,” says Luevand. “We need to ensure that immigrant students who rely on adult schools for literacy and career courses will not get left behind. Also, implementation of AEBG is not consistent across the state, leading to some consortiums having better implementation models than others.”

Ultimately, says Luevand, there needs to be uniform implementation of the AEBG block grant and transparency between K-12 and community college programs “to ensure all adult education programs contain the richness of courses necessary to help our students become contributing members of society.”

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