LAUSD Approves Massive Cuts to Adult Ed
March 22, 2012 12:44 pm
By David Drum
Despite a huge show of support from the community, the Los Angeles Unified School Board approved a plan on March 13 that would basically gut Adult Education in Los Angeles. Petitions with more than 220,000 signatures, thousands of phone calls and letters to school board members and politicians, and two huge rallies at LAUSD headquarters kept the Adult Ed program from being eliminated, but did not forestall draconian cuts that would choke most of the program.
Under the plan, proposed by Superintendent John Deasy and approved by the LAUSD board, only 10 of 30 adult schools would remain open next fall, and 20 would be closed. The schools to remain open are “free standing” adult schools such as Evans Adult School and the West Valley Occupational Center, which are required to narrow their focus to only “academic classes,” or classes to help students get GED certificates.
Academic programs are important, and they help many students get credits they need to graduate from high school, but they are only a small part of what Adult Education currently offers the community. The great majority of adult education classes are English as a Second Language classes, aimed at helping immigrants learn English. These vital classes would all be eliminated even in the most optimistic version of Deasy’s plan, which would open a few more schools if additional funds are “found.”
I’ve been teaching in the Adult Ed program for 15 years and I can say that all the students who attend classes want to be there. I have helped many students learn English, and helped many study for the citizenship test to become American citizens. They are among the best students in Los Angeles judged by their enthusiasm and their gratitude for the education they receive.
We have a 20% functional illiteracy rate among adults in our city, and many of these people desperately need to learn English to help their children in school and to get ahead in the workforce. Most adult students are working minimum wage jobs and are the least able to pay for privatized language classes.
The Adult Ed program in Los Angeles as it now stands serves up to 300,000 Los Angeles adults each year, with programs such as ESL, Parenting, Computer Skills, GED and high school diploma programs and more. More than 1,500 UTLA member teachers serve these students, and fees are minimal although students are asked to buy books.
Adult Education is approximately two percent of the LAUSD budget, yet we educate approximately one-third of all students who attend classes. It’s also the most cost-efficient segment of LAUSD. AB 189, passed and signed into law last year and taking effect this year, required that funds earmarked for adult education be spent only on Adult Ed. However, the LAUSD held budget hearings in late 2011 which zeroed out its funding for Adult Ed, thereby sidestepping the requirements of the new state law.
Superintendent Deasy has a history of hostility to adult education. In Santa Monica, before he came to the LAUSD, Superintendent Deasy eliminated Santa Monica’s Adult Education programs, shunting students to the junior college where classes are much more expensive and less convenient for students to attend. I understand that he also eliminated adult education while an administrator at a school district in Maryland, and that that district is trying to rebuild what he destroyed.
Democracy is based on educated citizens. Educated citizens produce educated voters who make better decisions. Everyone in Adult Education received notices that they were being fired by March 15. The LAUSD cuts not only forced many union teachers out of their jobs, they also will deprive the students most in need of ESL classes — and least able to pay for them — of a chance to help themselves and their children get ahead in Los Angeles.
Teacher and writer David Drum is the author of several books including the comic novel, Introducing the Richest Family in America. An AFT and UTLA member, he is a supporter of the Save Adult Ed Campaign at http://saveadulted.org. Image by Yoon Jung Lee from Save Adult Ed.