According to officials from the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) and the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE), Secretary DeVos told the leaders she is committed to strengthening adult college and career readiness and is eager to find innovative and high-tech solutions to help. The meetings came as COABE members, joined by various adult education state directors, fanned out across Washington for the spring Capitol Hill Day.
The two organizations, which represent more than 55,000 adult education teachers and administrators, recently launched the national Educate & Elevate Campaign to raise awareness about and ensure funding, critical to support adult education programs nationwide.
The United States consistently scores below the international average in: literacy, numeracy, and modern problem-solving, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. One in six adults in the U.S. lacks basic reading skills and cannot read a job application, understand basic written instructions, or navigate the internet. Two out of every six adults in the U.S. cannot understand basic numbers, like working a cash register or understanding a transit schedule, COABE and NCSDAE leaders pointed out.
“The Secretary assured us she is very interested in finding innovations and new technologies to help the 36 million adults in America who can't read job ads or qualify for job-training programs," said COABE's president Tom Nash, Director of Adult Education for RSU #14 – Windham/Raymond School District in Windham, Maine. “We thank the Secretary for her interest and look forward to working with her and the Department of Education.” A goal of the Trump administration is to provide more job opportunities for American workers; therefore the leaders discussed the need to prepare more adults to fill current and newly created job openings at all levels. Adults with a high school diploma or equivalency certificate are more likely than those without, to work full time, earn an average of $30,000 a year or more, and are better able to lift themselves above the family poverty line.
“It's time that we move beyond the concept of 'leave no child behind.' Today we need everyone pulling together so that adults too, can move ahead with the skills they need to find and get good jobs, support families, and minimize strain on social and legal services in our communities nationwide," Sharon Bonney, COABE's executive director added.
Federal and state funds support the majority of adult education programs. These funds have served approximately 1.5 million adults a year, of the 36 million adult Americans in need. Budget decisions are pending for appropriations to support the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). This act was overwhelmingly approved by Congress in 2014 to transform the nation's adult education system.
“The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is a game-changer that will transform our work in preparing students to compete in today's workforce," said Reecie Stagnolia, incoming Chair of the National Council of State Directors of Adult Education (NCSDAE) and Vice President for adult education, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. “Adult education is a wise investment in America's future that will yield a significant return. Improving the educational attainment of our adults prepares them for successful transition to college and careers and is an economic catalyst for global competitiveness."
Nationwide, many potential students languish on waiting lists, some can't afford transportation to get to distant classes, and some without child care are unable to attend night or weekend classes. Secretary DeVos, COABE, and NCSDAE leaders pledged to look for strategies to connect with more adult students through innovative technologies and informational campaigns.
Following the meeting, the leaders expressed confidence that Secretary DeVos would consider adult education a priority in her policy agenda. “It was truly an honor to meet with Secretary DeVos and discuss the critical role our nation's adult education system plays in increasing the education and skills of our adult population,” said Stagnolia.
Other leaders at the meeting included Kaye Sharbono, COABE's incoming President and adult education leader in Louisiana, and Patricia Tyler, Executive Director of NCSDAE. The hour-long session concluded a successful day of meetings with more than 80 Congressional members and staff.