Adult ed graduates try to save program
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Ismet Osmani earned a degree in education before fleeing his
native Kosovo for Tucson, where he was lost not knowing English.
Meet with federal
lawmakers, hoping to head off planned cuts
By Eric Swedlund
Nora Gleason didn't speak a word of English when she arrived
in Tucson from Mexico seven years ago.
David DeLeon was expelled from high school at 16 and spent
eight years drifting, running into drugs, alcohol and even juvenile
Each one was stuck and needed more education, and - like
thousands of others every year - found his or her own way to Pima Community
College Adult Education programs, learning to speak English or getting a
high school equivalency diploma.
Now the success stories have become advocates, lobbying
Arizona's congressional delegation while worrying whether federal budget
cuts to adult education proposed by President Bush will become reality.
Bush's budget proposal for fiscal 2006 cuts two-thirds from
the $569 million spent last year on adult education and eliminates the $225
million for the Even Start Family Literacy program. Earlier this month, the
Senate adopted an amendment by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., that rejected
the proposed cuts.
But if the cuts are approved, they will devastate adult
education in the United States, cutting basic educational opportunities for
the neediest people, said Greg Hart, dean of Pima Community College Adult
"Adult education is typically characterized by people who
make what I consider to be a very, very courageous effort to take advantage
of an educational opportunity and make a difference in their lives," Hart
Adult education helps people who operate on the margins of
society - dropouts, immigrants and refugees - nontraditional students who
are all but invisible to policy-makers, Hart said.
"It doesn't make any sense to me to shut down access to basic
educational opportunities to people who want it and need it," Hart said.
Pima College serves about 10,000 adult education students
each year, at a cost of about $350 each. Bush's budget cuts would force Pima
to limit adult education to about 2,000 students, Hart said. Students
currently range in age from 16 to 76. About 800,000 people older than 16 in
Arizona aren't enrolled in school and don't have a high school diploma.
Adult education includes English acquisition classes, classes
geared to the General Educational Development diploma, basic literacy and
basic education classes. It is open to anyone 16 or older who is not
currently enrolled in school and has less than a high school education.
With Arizona's high dropout rate, a GED is the "only game in
town" for thousands of students each year, Hart said. About 25 percent of
the high school diplomas each year in the state are earned through GED
programs, and as the AIMS test becomes a graduation requirement, that
percentage is expected to increase.
A group of eight current and former Pima adult education
students attended a conference in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.
DeLeon, 27, said the students met with lawmakers from Arizona
to illustrate how essential adult education is to them.
"It took eight years before I realized how important
education was to my future and the future of my family. At that point, adult
education was there for me," DeLeon said. "It completely turned my life
around and made a huge impact on my family."
A father of two young children, DeLeon is now an honors
student in his second year at PCC, on the path to a computer engineering
"Without that first initial step, I was lost," he said. "That
step projected me on a whole different direction."
Adult education repeatedly has been targeted for cuts. In
2003, state legislators proposed eliminating funding to adult education, and
Bush's federal budget last year had similar cuts to what he proposed this
Hart said adult education deserves continued support because
most of its students are parents, and what they do is critically important
for the education of their children.
Osmani, 34, arrived in Tucson three years ago, a
well-educated refugee who knew almost no English.
"I can say for sure, adult education was like my first home
in the U.S.," he said.
Gleason, 44, finished her English acquisition classes and now
helps people who are in the same situation.
"What could we do if adult education was not accessible for
us? We would be stuck," she said.