Barriers

Another adult education issue: affordable housing.

“We need to have an apartment without paying a lot of money,” she said. An Alexandria grocery store cashier, Tebeje said she can’t save for school because her rent is so high. “If I get one of these [apartments], I can go to school, too, but now I don’t have time because I work two jobs.(my emphasis)

In Arlington County, Virginia, which borders Washington D.C., more than 3,600 people have applied for the chance to rent one of 122 new affordable apartments still under construction.

All the work that goes into improving adult education curriculum, standards, professional quality, etc. is kind of a waste of time if no one can afford to attend.

See: 3,600 apply for 122 new Arlington apartments – The Washington Post.

E-Rate Also an Adult Education Issue

An E-Rate increase has gathered some momentum over the last several months. The White House recently joined the effort by issuing a proposal (“ConnectED”) that basically outlines a vision for expanded connectivity powered by new E-Rate funds (in a nutshell: “to have 99% of American students connected to broadband Internet within five years”). More information here.

E-Rate is an interesting issue from a government education spending point of view because it’s not a legislative matter (that is, it doesn’t require Congress to act)—it only requires FCC approval.

Most of the attention on E-Rate is focused on K-12 schools, but it’s worth keeping an eye on from an adult education policy perspective as well, because public libraries are covered by the program. Faster/better connectivity at public libraries provides a benefit to adult leaners—particularly those enrolled in library-based adult education programs, of course, but also self-studiers (a population that adult education policy folks often forget about—a story for another day), or any learner enrolled in a program anywhere who uses their local public library for supplementary study outside of class. Back in June, ALA issued statement in support of the administration’s ConnectEd proposal that noted the role that library broadband connectivity plays in adult education:

“At any given point in the day a library can enable: a student live-chatting with an online tutor for homework help, a parent communicating with his child’s teacher via the online course management system, a high school student taking an Advanced Placement course online, a small class taking an online GED training coursestudents of all ages participating in real-time distance learning and a professional completing a recertification course. These are just a few of the Internet-based services the E-rate program helps support in America’s libraries. Virtually all public libraries provide no-fee access to computers and the Internet, including WiFi.” (my emphasis)

What would be even better, of course, would be an E-Rate program that allowed community-based adult education programs to apply for the discount as well as schools and libraries.

World Literacy Summit: What Difference Would More Adult Learner Participation Have Made?

Claire Provost of The Guardian, writing for the Poverty Matters Blog, wonders about adult learner representation at the recent World Literacy Summit:

I wonder if the arguments made and suggestions proposed at the World Literacy Summit might have been different if the audience were, even slightly, more diverse. Crucially, there are few, if any, illiterate people and adult learners at the conference.

Short answer: Yes, they would have been.

Slightly longer answer: Compare, for example, Marty Finsterbusch’s Congressional testimony from 2009 regarding Title II of the Workforce Investment Act, the most critical federal legislation regarding adult literacy in the U.S., to the testimony of other witnesses. Marty is the Executive Director of VALUE, Voice of Adult Learners United to Educate, the only national nonprofit organization in the U.S. governed and operated by current and former adult literacy students.

P.S. Provost’s article is excellent, by the way, and I strongly recommend it to anyone interested in—or sometimes frustrated by—what sometimes seems to be an overemphasis on the economic investment argument for supporting adult literacy.