Since 2009, many adult education programs in California have been gutted thanks to a provision that allows school districts to “flex” or keep adult education funding, even if they aren’t offering any adult education classes. Assembly Bill (AB) 189 was introduced into the California Legislature in January in an effort to slow down the destruction of adult education programs by requiring districts to offer some adult education programs in order to receive the funding. However, AB 189 was revised on March 3 and has lost its intended effect on putting limits on how districts may spend adult education funding. The bill was authored by Assembly Member Mike Eng, and co-authored by Assembly Members Paul Fong, Tony Mendoza, Sandre R. Swanson, and Norma Torres.
According to California Council for Adult Education (CCAE) President, Mike Wada, the language in AB 189 had to be changed or else it will not make it through the legislative process. At a Legislators’ Forum on March 4 in San Jose, CA, Wada explained that some legislators thought that the original wording of the bill implied that funding would be taken away from K-12 education. The original wording stated, “”This bill would require school districts receiving specified funding for adult education, ….to expend at least 65% of that adult education funding on adult education programs in a specified manner, commencing with the 2011-12 fiscal year.” Those districts that did not spend at least 65% of the adult education funding on adult education programs would lose 65% of the adult education funding. This would have been a way to stabilize the slashing of adult education programs across the state.
Any language regarding that districts be required to spend a certain portion of adult education funds on adult education programs has been stricken from AB 189. In fact, the words “adult education” have been removed from AB 189 and the bill now includes other programs such as regional occupational programs (ROP’s), Gifted and Talented Education (GATE), and California High School Exit Exams (CAHSEE) remediation for those who need assistance passing the exam. The bill has been retitled from Adult Education to Education Funding.
While AB 189 now does lack its intended effect, it is better than having no bill that addresses flexibility and what the intended purpose of flexibility is. AB 189 informs districts and legislators that categorical flexibility is for helping with the current financial emergency situation and is not meant to be a long term solution to a financial problem. The bill acknowledges Governor Jerry Brown’s suggestion that the flexing option be extended until the end of the 2014-15 school year.
AB 189 also says that districts must “reinstate full funding for the programs upon the expiration of the funding flexibility authorized pursuant to this section.” So what does that mean, especially to districts that have closed centers and laid off teachers because their adult education funding was flexed?
Wada said at the Legislators’ Forum that is means school districts must certify that they will have a sustainable program when flexing expires. It is not clear what exactly is considered a sustainable program or what will happen to districts who do not certify that they will have a sustainable program when flexing ends four years from now.
AB 189 will be heard by the Assembly’s Education Committee on March 30. Click here to view the bill’s history and where it is in the bill process.
AB 189 Revised 3-3-11
AB 189 Would Help Save Adult Education
Attendance at CCAE Legislators’ Forum 3-4-11