If a Million Kids in the U.S. Need Glasses and Don’t Have Them, How Many Adult Learners Have the Same Problem?

According to an op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times250,000 California schoolchildren need glasses but don’t have them. As I’ve mentioned before, this is surely an even bigger problem among adult literacy and adult education students. Granted, I’ve never read anything that estimates the number of adult literacy students who likely have vision issues, but if one out of every seven public school students in L.A.—and more than a million around the country—are struggling in school because they don’t have glasses, it only stands to reason that the number of adult learners (who tend to be, on average, lower income) with the same problem is even higher. Many of them may very well be in need of adult literacy services today because they struggled with reading as children due to vision problems.

h/t @kdrum at Mother Jones

California Proposed GED Alternative in “Early Stage”

A somewhat buried lede in this San Jose Mercury News story on the GED, from July 7th:

The California Department of Education is seeking approval from the state Board of Education to adopt an alternative high school equivalency test that could be taken either using pencil and paper or on a computer, said Denise Moore, education program consultant. However, the idea is still in its early stages and the alternative test might not be available until later next year, she said.

Immigration Reform and Adult Education Funding

VOXXI on the possibility of immigration reform serving as a lever for increasing the federal investment in adult education:

[A]s talks heat up regarding anticipated immigration reform, the grease used to accomplish such a monumental task will indeed be English adult instruction on a national level.

This is similar to the previous large immigration overhaul in 1986 when $4 billion was earmarked towards states providing English classes. However, [Migration Policy Institute Policy Analyst Sarah] Hooker said whatever reform does happen, plenty of questions remain.

“English classes would likely be an element of any major reform bill,” Hooker said. “The one question would be at what point would someone have to demonstrate English proficiency? Is it going to be at the point of adjusting to a temporary legal status or applying for citizenship or some intermediate point along that pathway?”

I think the biggest difference between now and 1986 is that it is much less likely that an immigration reform bill introduced this year will include any new funds for additional English classes. If anything, we’re more likely to see additional cuts to federal spending for non-defense discretionary programs like adult education later this year. [1]

To me, it would be perverse for a comprehensive immigration reform bill to ignore the dramatic state budget cuts to adult ESL classes in states like California. But it appears Congress is going to be stuck in fiscal austerity mode for some time, and so I’m hard pressed to come up with a scenario in which immigration reform results in a significant new federal investment in adult education.

I’d love to be wrong about this.

h/t @otan

[1] As noted in this commentary by Robert Greenstein, the end-of-the-year “fiscal cliff” budget deal only delayed the scheduled across-the-board sequestration cuts that were supposed to kick in on January 2nd:

Sequestration will hit March 1 unless the President and Congress delay it further or replace it with something else.  Republicans are insisting that policymakers must replace every dollar of across-the-board cuts that’s cancelled with a dollar of spending cuts.  The White House, consistent with its dollar-in-taxes-for-a-dollar-in-spending principle, wants to replace sequestration with a package that includes equal amounts of revenue increases and spending cuts.

Both sides, in other words, have already agreed that additional spending cuts will be on the table during the next round of negotiations, and while this doesn’t necessarily mean cuts will be made to adult education, any non-defense discretionary program is pretty vulnerable as both sides look for things to cut. Further, the likelihood of any increases in discretionary spending for things like adult education seem to me to be pretty unlikely in an environment where both sides are looking for $2 trillion in deficit reduction…

Legislative Analyst’s Office Recommends Restructuring of California Adult Education Funding

EdSource published a good story earlier this week about the continuing effort by advocates in California to fix their broken adult education funding system. As I’ve written previously, (here, for example), a budget mechanism implemented in 2009 known as “categorical flexibility,” has allowed California school districts to divert funds from adult education to support its K-12 programs. Altogether, the LAO estimates that over $450 million in state and federal government funds—more than half of the funds that used to be available—have been diverted out of California’s district-run adult schools since the categorical flexibility law was passed.

California’s Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) recently issued a report that recommended a return to a dedicated funding stream for adult education—on other words, remove it from the list of programs that can be poached for other purposes.

Unfortunately, the article makes it clear that there still isn’t a clear legislative path towards implementing that recommendation.

Don’t miss Bob Harper’s comment on the article, which I think makes a good point:

If it’s the intention of the Governor that adult literacy, English language acquisition and immigrant integration, basic skills related to readiness for work or college, are no longer critical services, then that needs to be made plain in policy discussions, and not be the desultory by-product of budgetary reform. In such policy discussions it would be hard to ignore the historic role that adult education has performed for California, and to discuss in what form that needed service continues.