Now it’s in, now it’s not: the adult education funding zigzag

Added March 30th, 2015 by Peter Ruark | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Peter Ruark

There were some mixed messages coming out of the Legislature last week: the Senate School Aid Appropriations Subcommittee strengthened funding for adult education, while its counterpart subcommittee in the House eliminated it entirely.

After the Michigan League for Public Policy testified before the Senate subcommittee urging more money for adult education, the subcommittee passed a budget adding $7 million for that purpose.

Just one day before, however, the House subcommittee surprised many people by completely eliminating funding for adult education, along with funding for some other good programs such as the governor’s third-grade reading initiative.

A recent League report shows that adult education is important for bringing the lowest-skilled workers fully into the job market by preparing them for postsecondary education. Workers with a postsecondary credential such as a certificate, license or degree have significantly higher earnings and lower unemployment and poverty rates than those with only a high school diploma or GED. Those without a high school diploma or GED fare even worse in comparison.

With only 7% of Michigan’s prime working-age adults enrolled in adult education, and with 60% of community college students having at least one remedial education requirement, it is clear that more adult education is needed in the state. The primary barrier to increasing adult education is the lack of adequate state funding.

The House subcommittee’s rationale for eliminating adult education funding is that school districts should get more overall funding and then choose how much to devote to adult education. That idea might look good on paper, but in reality, school children generate more sympathy than low-skilled adults. Because of parent and community pressure, many school districts likely would cut adult education in favor of adding high-profile or high-demand K-12 programs.

The Senate subcommittee is on the right track and the House subcommittee is not. Legislators need to find a way to give increases to both K-12 and adult education rather than pitting them against each other for funding.

Now would be a good time to contact your state representative and state senator or members of the House Appropriations Committee to tell them that while funding K-12 is important, so is funding basic skills education that brings our lowest-skilled adults into the economic mainstream. Urge him or her to support the Senate subcommittee proposal to add $7 million for adult education for the coming year.

 –Peter Ruark

2 Responses to “Now it’s in, now it’s not: the adult education funding zigzag”

  1. […] demonstrate basic literacy (and far too many who can’t even manage that), adult education has withered and nearly […]

  2. […] Money spent on remediating college students could beef up adult education, which has “withered and nearly […]

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