Adult ed gets extra $2.1M but strings are attached

Thirty-eight community agencies have been awarded $9 million in state grants to support adult education programs as part of a new system that requires them to meet performance targets in terms of numbers of students served, GEDs earned and more.
The grants, announced by Gov. Donald L. Carcieri at a ceremony Monday at the Genesis Center in Providence, represent a roughly 30-percent, or $2.1 million, increase in state support for adult education, a sector that has long been viewed as severely underfunded.
The money is expected to help the agencies serve between 6,000 and 8,000 adults with low skills or limited proficiency in English, improve services and reduce their waiting lists. The funds come from state revenue – particularly from the Governor’s Workforce Board Rhode Island – and from the federal government.
State officials said the $9 million also has leveraged more than $1 million in local and private-sector funds.
“This public-private partnership will help make our state more competitive,” Carcieri said in a news release. “Whether it’s English as a second language, adult basic education, or GED preparation, these grants will open the door of opportunity for residents to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to obtain gainful employment.”
A total of 50 agencies had sought a combined $22 million in grants. Those who received money will be able to renew their grants for two more years, but they must undergo quarterly reviews by the R.I. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure they are meeting the goals they set in their grant applications.
The state also set targets for itself, including increasing the number of adult learners who complete their GEDs each year from 250 to 1,000 by 2010 and increasing the number of participants in adult education programs from 5,500 to between 6,500 and 8,000 by 2010.
Training and support for the agencies will be provided by the Rhode Island Adult Education Professional Development Center, run by the Rhode Island College Foundation.
Along with the participation targets, the state’s goals for the coming three years include implementing standards-based testing, increasing technology-based learning options and developing 12 networks out of the 38 agencies.
Adelita Orefice, director of the R.I. Department of Labor and Training, said the extra money is essential to ensuring Rhode Island will have a stronger work force.
“In my business it’s all about moving the labor supply curve to meet the needs of businesses and we can’t do that without investment,” she said. In a news release, she also noted that adult education is “the key issue in work force development discussions” nationwide. •

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