The Trump Administration’s proposed fiscal year 2020 budget calls for a 24 percent cut to Title II Adult Education State Grants, from which Oakland Literacy Council receives funding.
Low literacy is as prevalent now as 20 years ago, yet there are fewer public resources dedicated to solving the problem. In the state of Michigan, a cut at the federal level would be a continuation of a trend, as support for adult education has fallen 87 percent from the 1995-96 school year.
The funding decline has hit already under-served cities particularly hard. The latest casualty is Hazel Park, a city where the poverty rate hovers near 30% and two-thirds of the high-school students drop out before graduation. Budget shortfalls forced Hazel Park to shutter its adult education program in July 2018.
Some programs have closed as well, while others remain operational but with reduced service. Walled Lake, for instance, could not afford repairs to its outdated community education center, so adult ed programming was forced to share space with a middle school, which led to the elimination of daytime programming for adult ed, triggering a decline in enrollment. Evening programming is difficult for many low-literate adults who lack evening child care. Pontiac, another impoverished community, almost closed last summer, too, and now operates on a slim staff and emergency funding.
Currently, no adult education programming currently exists for adults in high-need Oakland County communities of Madison Heights, Oak Park, Hazel Park, or Southfield. While surrounding adult ed classes will enroll adults whose communities lack their own programming, we know that this population often lacks transportation to access services beyond their neighborhood borders.
While the Trump Administration’s proposed budget has been received with criticism and may not pass, it is true that adults in Michigan have increasingly limited access to adult education programming that could lift their literacy levels. The bottom line: it’s even more important today that Oakland Literacy Council is here to bridge the gap.