Budget cuts squeeze adult education
As students in Jamie Reinhardt-La Rue's class worked together in small groups graphing the results of a math problem on Tuesday, Paige Shadduck said she decided to pursue her GED after she learned she'd missed so many days of high school because of health issues that she'd have to repeat the year's classes.
For J.B., who did not want his full name used, the turning point came when a prospective employer asked him why he didn't graduate from high school.
"Everyone here is trying to better themselves," said J.B., who plans to study social work after earning his GED so he can help kids going through rehab.
During Michael Devanna's English as a Second Language class, Elsa Schubert, diet aide at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, said she's communicating better with co-workers and patients.
But these free General Education Development and English as a Second Language classes that help so many may no longer be available after June of next year, said Karen Carlisle, program director of Yavapai College's Adult Basic Education program.
"In March 2010, the Arizona Legislature's budget cuts completely eliminated funding for Adult Basic Education throughout the state," Carlisle said.
That would have taken away federal funding as well, but Karen Liersch, Arizona deputy associate superintendent of Adult Education Services, got the feds to agree to maintain federal funding through the end of this fiscal year if all the Adult Basic Education programs statewide paid to keep the programs going, Carlisle said.
Yavapai College kicked in to make the federal match to keep its program funded through June 2012, Carlisle said. But after that, the college's program like many others statewide will collapse unless government funding is restored.
"We can't keep it up," Carlisle said.
That's hard news for many students like Elvira Ortega who said the ESL class is helping her get ready for her citizenship exam.
"I have a beauty salon," said Natalie Erickson, an ESL student. "I need to speak better English to my customers."
Finding better work motivates ESL students Hong Chen, Lidia Estrada, Yolanda Hanson, and Laura Romaniz.
"I have two children. Because of this class when they have homework I can help them," Romaniz said. For Vicente Gonzales and Olga Avilia, being able to help their children with their homework was also important.
Carlisle said she is concerned that people think GED testing will always be here, and don't realize that once funds are eliminated "there will be no more GED testing in Yavapai County," Carlisle said. Student paid testing fees cover the entire cost of the tests since the state cut funding, but administration of GED testing records would not be covered unless funding is restored.
"This means that there would be no central source of GED transcripts, credentials, no way for students to get copies of their records, no staff to do that administrative work," Carlisle said.
The Arizona Adult Education System consistently ranks in the top quartile of all states, producing over two grade levels of educational gains per student for less than $1,300 each annually, wrote Liersch in a memo sent to state House of Representatives Speaker Andy Tobin and state Senate President Russell Pearce in June this year.
Additional data from the U.S. Department of Labor reports that adults who pass the GED test earn an additional $9,000 annually in taxable wages, producing tax revenue at both the state and federal levels almost immediately, Liersch wrote, noting that more than 13,000 Arizona adults earned their high school diploma by passing the GED Test in 2009.
"This is one of the best investments anyone in the county can make for residents," Carlisle said, noting that their programs take students regularly to other programs the college offers that they might be interested in enrolling in after earning their GED.
Many of these programs were developed with local employers to train people in careers and skills that are needed in this area such as allied health, pre-engineering, culinary arts, agriculture, pilot training and other programs, Carlisle said.
Ariadna Geronimo, who worked as an engineer in Mexico City, said she wants to re-establish her career here and is taking the ESL and GED classes in preparation for college classes.
"It's good for myself to do this," Geronimo said.