Alright, adult education is not completely dead, just in a severe coma. Adult Education, a program which last year served nearly 300,000 students, has been drastically reduced. It is worth noting that until 2008, adult education had its own budget and generated its own money. This year adult education used only 2% of LAUSD’s budget, but Superintendent Deasy and the school board decided to cut adult education, early education and the arts in an attempt to fix a huge budget deficit (we won’t talk about the past superintendent who the school board bought out for $517,500).
It has been a horrible year for adult students and adult ed, early education and arts teachers. It’s been a never ending game of wait-and-see. Now the school board approved and the unions have agreed to have ten more furlough days. Shortening an already short school year and decreasing already decreased paychecks. But it will save jobs and keep adult education on a respirator. Out of 30 adult schools that operated this year, 10 will remain. Out of 1,500 adult education teachers, perhaps 650 will get jobs. (The vote has also positively affected early education and K-12 teachers, but I don’t have specifics.)
Many teachers don’t know if they’ll have a job or where they’ll work, so adult students will have the option of taking just one class (instead of the usual two or three, though I’ve known students who took up to four or five classes a day). Students will have to pay $30 per class, which everyone agrees is fair—perhaps if this had been done sooner, it would have helped the program, but LAUSD didn’t ask for fees until this crisis.
Adult education is still going to be part of LAUSD, as a sliver of what it once was. 25 years ago, during Amnesty, my school, Evans Community Adult School had 10,000 students and went 24 hours 7 days a week! In 2008 before adult education was put into the same funds as K-12, we had classes on Sundays and at 5:45 am, reaching a percentage of the adult population that worked six days a week, but wanted to learn English on their one day off. Adult education has been slashed so severely it is hard to imagine that next year all the students will be able to take one class.
I went to the Evans high school graduation last week. Sixty-one adults got their high school diplomas and fifty received their 8th grade diplomas. Some of them came to Evans speaking no English and some of them came to improve their lives by getting the diploma they had missed the first time around. All of them struggled to get their diploma and all of them now have opportunities they didn’t have before.
As proud as I was to be at the graduation, what struck me the most was how small the program was. We have already been cut so much, and we need adult education now more than ever. The Board of Education has claimed that they needed to cut adult education to balance the budget, but at the same time, they spend ridiculous amounts of money on “consultants.” They’ve also conveniently forgotten that adult ed has brought in federal money for LAUSD for years.
I am sad for myself, I have lost the job I loved after 11 years, sad for my colleagues, some of whom have lost jobs they’ve loved for 35 years and devastated for my students who have lost a chance to really learn.
My student Luz, has three children and has just gotten into what we call the “pre-high school program,” (it’s like 6th grade). I know that if Evans was the way it’s been in the past, she could graduate in a few years, maybe before even her own children. But the true victim of this decimation of adult education is the city of Los Angeles. This year we live in a city where if immigrants want to learn English and American culture, they can. If high school drop outs want to improve their lives and fix their past mistakes, they can. We live in a city where Chinese cashiers, Mexican cowboys, Salvadorean sushi chefs and Russian housewives can all end up in a group together talking about Martin Luther King.
Next year, they will not have the same opportunities. Next year, if students can only take one class per trimester it won’t be possible to graduate from high school in three years. Next year, no one even knows how many students will be able to take classes and how many will give up and never learn English, never get even their eighth grade diploma. And the thing that none of us really know or understand is why the Board of Education has done this. Perhaps it is what my student Luz suggested, “maybe they just want us to all be waitresses forever.”