The Los Angeles Unified School Board will vote on Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, on whether or not to cut nearly all funding from LA’s adult education program that serves 300,000 people with classes that, in many cases, make crucial differences in lives.
Adult ed teachers and students demonstrated at school sites all last week, but it is unclear if anyone is listening. The district is so budget strapped that board members are looking everywhere for cuts, and eyes have landed on adult ed.
Sunday’s Daily News ran a good story by Barbara Jones about the various sides of this important education issue.
Here’s a clip:
High-school dropouts can go there to earn a GED or diploma. Veterans, laid-off workers and young adults with vocational aspirations can learn a trade. Immigrant parents can acquire basic English and math skills so they can help their kids with homework.
At nearly three dozen adult education and occupational centers operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District, nearly 300,000 students are enrolled in low-cost programs designed to help them better their lives.
Their fate now lies in the hands of the school board, which is set to vote Tuesday on a budget that would cut the program and divert most of the $200 million in state money earmarked for adult education to ease the district’s $557 million deficit.
While LAUSD leaders say they desperately need the money to fund core programs at K-12 campuses, adult education advocates say the program is essential to building an academic support system for LAUSD parents and training a skilled workforce for Southern California.
“Los Angeles Unified is the perfect storm,” said Chris Nelson, president of the 3,000-member California Council for Adult Education. “Ending all services for 300,000 students will have a huge impact — not only on the students, but on the community.”
There is no easy solution to the quandary facing the school district, which is wrestling with how to balance the $6 billion budget for 2012-13.
For the last five years, the cash-strapped state government has provided the district with just part of the money it is supposed to receive and has extended IOUs for the rest. This year, for instance, Los Angeles Unified got just $3,338 of the $6,506 it had been promised to educate each student, according to district officials.
Kathrin Middleton of dropped out of high school more than 30 years ago to help raise her siblings. She kept her lack of education a secret until her own daughter entered kindergarten — a milestone that prompted the Encino homemaker to enroll in a diploma program at Rinaldi Adult Center in Granada Hills.
“I was living life in a box, a life filled with shame and limited by fear,” Middleton said. “I didn’t want that for my daughter. I wanted her to be brave and courageous, so I faced my demons.”
A dropout from Granada Hills Charter, Ashley Mu oz thought she’d closed the door on her future until a friend encouraged her to get her high-school equivalency certificate at Rinaldi.
“It gave me a second chance,” Mu oz said. “I’ve got my confidence back and I’m ready to face the world.”
There are countless success stories like these among the 10,500 students at Rinaldi, a satellite of the Kennedy-San Fernando Community Adult School.
Principal Kathy Javaheri said there’s a misperception that adult centers teach nonessential subjects like handicrafts or foreign language for travelers.
In reality, they’re designed to help students earning their GED or high school diploma, which helps LAUSD fulfill its goal of boosting its graduation rate. There are also basic English and math classes for parents of K-12 students so they can acquire the skills to help with homework and participate in their children’s education.
“We’re part of the fabric of LAUSD,” said Javaheri, who has been with the adult ed program for more than 30 years. “Taking away adult ed would be tearing away that fabric….”
I spoke to four Adult Ed teachers on Sunday afternoon, and they were not feeling optimistic about Tuesday’s meeting.
We’ll be keeping an eye on it.
Photo by Andy Holzman, Daily News Staff, of students in class at the West Valley Occupational Center in Woodland Hills