Districts 214, 211 could be forced to drop adult ed programs
As the state budget impasse continues, several suburban districts are facing tough decisions about the future of adult education programs that serve the area's neediest learners.
The Adult and Family Literacy courses through Northwest Suburban High School District 214's Community Education program are funded entirely through state grants, which now are on hold due to budget uncertainty in Springfield, said program director Mike Field.
District 214 covered the $350,000 cost to keep the programs running during the first semester of the current school year, but officials aren't sure they can continue to pick up the tab without state help.
At stake are English as a Second Language classes, the citizenship program, Read to Learn literacy classes, the women and children's program, and GED classes -- all of which enrolled more than 1,500 adults in the fall semester, Field said.
"We have not committed to a second semester yet," he said. "We are still waiting and hoping and analyzing numbers to determine what we can put together. The worst-case scenario would be that we would not offer these classes second semester."
The people who take adult and family literacy classes are often new immigrants or economically disadvantaged residents looking to improve their lives, Field said.
"The folks we serve are typically the neediest in our communities," he said, adding that the classes teach basic skills such as how to communicate at a doctor's office, how to help children with homework or how to look for a job.
"(Ending the programs) would have a devastating impact on these people's lives," Field said.
Field said the department is hoping to put together a plan in the next few weeks to get the word out not only to students but also to the 50 to 70 part- and full-time staff members and instructors who support the program.
District 214 also is reaching out to local legislators to tell them what would be lost if the programs are canceled.
"People that need these services the most are the ones that suffer the most when our state legislature can't pass a budget," Field said. "That's the shame of it all."
There are about 90 adult education providers throughout Illinois that are governed through the Illinois Community College Board, many of which depend on state money, Field said.
Palatine-Schaumburg Township High School 211 is planning for cuts from its second-semester programming, said Lisa Small, associate superintendent for instruction.
The district receives about $400,000 in federal and state money for adult education, with about 60 percent coming from the state, she said. Of that, the ESL courses are the most supported by grant funding now in question.
During the fall, District 211 had ESL classes offered at five different sites with hundreds of students at each. In the spring it will be offered only at Conant and Palatine high schools, Small said.
"It is an issue for our community," Small said. "We are talking about hundreds of adults who would be taking these courses, but it is no longer an option for them." Registration for the spring semester will be done on a first-come, first-served basis, and the spots could fill quickly.
"These are adults who want to continue their learning process and their opportunities are being taken away," Small said.