Proposal: Adult Education and Literacy Act of 2014

Type: Policy Brief
Published Date: September 4, 2013
Author: Waterous, Frank

The following proposal, written by Senior Policy Analyst Frank Waterous, was submitted Sept. 4, 2013, to the Workforce Development and Readiness Working Group of the Economic Opportunity and Poverty Reduction Task Force. (PDF link below.)

Fund and Refocus Adult Education and Literacy Programs

Proposal:

"Adult Education and Literacy Act of 2014." An EOPRTF bill to provide $1 million in state-appropriated funding to support adult education and literacy programs in Colorado, and to refocus the ultimate goal of these programs on moving students more quickly and successfully toward post-secondary credential attainment.

  • Post-secondary education and credential attainment is increasingly central to the ability of adults to earn family-sustaining wages, participate fully in Colorado's 21st century workforce, and contribute to our state's economic health and vitality. Both nationally and in Colorado, projections indicate that by 2025 two-thirds of all jobs will require some level of post-secondary education or skill development.
  • Currently, over 340,000 working-age adult Coloradans lack a high school diploma or GED – about 10 percent of our state's working-age population. However, adult education and literacy programs in our state serve only about 14,000 students – just 4 percent of this eligible population.
  • Colorado is one of only two or three states that provide no state appropriations to support adult education and literacy programs. Our required state match for the federal funds we receive is made up from gifts, grants, donations and in-kind services provided by private, non-profit and community organizations.
  • Providing state-appropriated funding for adult basic education would expand the reach of these programs to serve a larger portion of the eligible population and help more low-income, low-literacy adults start down the pathway to self-sufficiency and family-sustaining wages.
  • The proposed bill would provide a $1 million investment of state-appropriated funding for adult-education and literacy programs. Such an investment would move us toward the "middle of the pack" nationally in terms of the funding provided per eligible adult in our state.
  • A $1 million investment in state-appropriated funding would represent meaningful "seed money" to expand support to a variety of additional programs throughout the state so that we can reach more eligible adults, and to assist in developing the infrastructure needed to strengthen our state's adult education and literacy opportunities.
  • At the same time as making this critical financial investment, Colorado must also refocus the vision and mission of our adult-education and literacy efforts toward helping more low-skilled, low-income adults move as quickly as possible from basic-skill acquisition to post-secondary credential attainment.
  • The bill should identify this refocused vision and mission as a priority. It should also direct the state agencies involved with adult education and literacy, post-secondary education and credential attainment, workforce development, and human services to coordinate their efforts and actively collaborate through the development of innovative programs and opportunities to make such a refocused system a reality.
  • In drafting the bill, the EOPRTF should actively involve key stakeholders, including but not limited to the Colorado Department of Education's Adult Education and Family Literacy Office, the Colorado Community College System, the Colorado Workforce Development Council/Department of Labor and Employment, and representatives of the Skills2Compete-Colorado coalition.