After hundreds of teachers, parents and students poured into the meeting chambers of the Oakland Unified School District Board of Education meeting Wednesday night demanding the district prioritize students and learning, the Board voted to meet one of their demands: keeping adult education as part of a district service.

The Board’s vote to continue spending $1 million on adult education next year keeps the program bare bones but reverses a Board decision in March to end adult education. The Board took that March action because the state, which provides most of the funding for education in California, had said it was going to pull adult education funding from K-12 school districts and give it to community colleges instead. Recently the state education department reversed that decision and decided to maintain adult education funding to K-12 districts, making it easier for Oakland’s elected School Board members to make the same decision.

At Wednesday’s meeting, scores of people chanted “keep adult education” and held up signs. A young boy spoke at the podium to tell the board that adult education is needed because his mom deserves the opportunity to go to school. Some people wore graduation caps and gowns to illustrate that opportunity that the GED provides for some to graduate from high school.

Protesters who gathered before the meeting at the La Escuelita Education Center on 2nd Avenue, said they wanted to support not only adult education but fair wages for teachers. The Oakland Education Association, representing teachers, had just rejected a district contract offering a one-time bonus of 2.35 percent and ongoing yearly raises of 1.5 percent if certain funding thresholds from the state were met. Teachers said that after years of no raise at all, 1.5 percent seemed too little, too late, even with the one-time bonus.

“I am speaking to demand a fair contract for Oakland teachers, to demand a real wage increase for teachers, stop attacks on adult ed and the immigrate community in Oakland, stop packing the special education classes,” said Mike Airgood, a teacher. “This district now has more money coming in than it has in many years,” he said, referring to California Gov. Jerry Brown’s promise to fund education in the fall at much higher levels than the state has in the past. However, the state budget has yet to be passed by the legislature.

In Oakland, where many immigrants depend on adult education to learn English and keep up with their children’s classwork, and many others rely on it to finish their high school diplomas through the GED, adult education has been popular, with hundreds enrolled each year. The OUSD adult education has included family literacy classes for parents of elementary, middle and high school students, helping parents become engaged in school programs and follow their children’s academic success.

When the Board voted to disband adult education in March, it was seen as an affront to the immigrant community, some said.

Board President David Kakishiba said the board was always interested in preserving adult education in some fashion, especially the family literacy programs, but its hands were somewhat tied by the state.

Still, adult education used to receive upwards of $20 million in Oakland before it was scaled way back in 2009 in the wake of state budget cuts to education generally. Now, the $1 million allocated is about a quarter of one percent of the district’s $415 million budget.

2 Responses

  1. Cynthia Eagleton

    Thank you SO much for covering this. There has not been adequate coverage of what has happened to Adult Education in the past 5 years, and especially as affects certain communities, such as Oakland.

    2 things.

    1. I found this article from 2005 – before flexibility. It’s interesting to me that even before flexibility and massive cuts to public education, OUSD was talking about shifting it over to Peralta. It almost seems like flexibility gave them the excuse to do this.


    2. I wanted to clarify something. I’ll include the same bit I did on the AEM blog:

    Note: It was not just “cuts to education generally” that encouraged OUSD to cut Oakland Adult School to the marrow of the bone. It was flexibility. The State cut all public education. Then it made Adult Education funds “flexible,” i.e. available to K12 districts. If the State had not made these funds available, Adult Schools would have remained open. The State could have cut Adult School funds but still protected them. They could have cut them in half, for example – but protected that remaining half.

    Instead, it made them the “fix” for the cuts to K12 Schools. This is like killing the mother to save the child. In fact, in the case of Family Literacy and so many ESL and GED classes, it is doing something very close to that.

    Would a mother give her life for a child? Sure.

    But is that the best solution? Especially when there is some other solution available?

    No, of course not.

    But that is what happened.

    And now we are dealing with the consequences.

    Luckily, Adult Education is all about second chances.

    And we are busy creating them right now.

    ————- Thank you AGAIN for covering this very important matter.———

  2. Janan Apaydin

    I wanted to clarify that the OUSD proposal that the OEA bargaining team did not accept was for UP TO 1.5 percent, not 1.5% actually. Not a firm offer, really. How could leadership accept ‘up to’? That could mean zero on the salary schedule, and only the 1-time bonus guaranteed. Teachers need a raise on the salary schedule, not a one time bonus. Just like the district, we cannot plan our family budgets on ‘up to,’ on money that may or may not be there next year, or the year after….


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