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Study Released on Effects of Flexing Education Dollars

Posted on 06/10/2011

On May 26, the Rand Corporation, in collaboration with several California universities, released a study of the effects of the legislature's 2009 decision to put many programs including adult education into a flexible spending category, and providing the resulting $4.5 billion to districts as discretionary funds. The study, Deregulating School Aid in California – How Local Educators Allocate Flexible Tier 3 Categorical Funds: Findings from 10 School Districts in the First Implementation Year, 2001-2010, notes that "district actions were driven mostly by the need to plug deficits in their budgets, rather than from careful evaluation of programs and priorities." It also found that local decision-making was hampered by poor communications from lawmakers and uncertainty about whether the changes would last beyond the initial four years.

According to the study, Adult Education Administrators were interviewed in four of the ten districts studied. The section of the report on adult education (pp. 36-8) notes that adult education took a big hit in most programs. Eight of the ten programs reduced or eliminated adult education. Only one district completely closed adult education. Others retained a focus on credit recovery, GED classes, and Career Technical Education (CTE), eliminating programs for older adults and adults with disabilities. Only one district retained classes in all six adult education program areas (Adult Secondary, ESL, Adults with Disabilities, CTE, Parenting, and Older Adults.) One administrator is quoted about the effects of eliminating ESL and other basic skills classes. "I think we haven't seen all of the consequences yet. I think the state is going to see it in the next few years. Right now, one out of four adults can't read a newspaper. More with unemployment, we have people knocking down our doors, trying to get more education, and we give them less."

The research project is continuing with a survey of all California school district to learn more about how they are applying flexibility.