School board votes to take adult education money

January 21, 2011 12:59:52 AM PST
A drastic decision was made Thursday night in San Jose to gut adult education. The school board voted unanimously to take millions of dollars away from a program that teaches people English and trains them for jobs. It's part of an effort to protect K-12 education.

At the San Jose Unified School board meeting the focus was on a money grab. The superintendent wants to take money away from the Metropolitan Adult Education Program, or MetroED, and use it instead to fund more programs for children within the district.

"The state legislature has put us in a position where we have to eat our own," says Assistant Superintendant Chris Funk.

Two years ago, the state gave control of adult education funding, which used to be protected money, to the school boards. Now if the district needs that money, it can take it. Parents and students of all ages sounded off about which group should get financial priority.

"I do request on their behalf that you allow adult education services to remain," said one woman.

"I urge you to please vote to shift the funds," said Michele Bertolone, a parent.

San Jose Unified wants $3.6 million of MetroED's $5.4 million budget. The money would restore furlough days, reinstate summer school, and help at-risk middle school students.

"It's unfair to adult education. Yes, it defiantly is unfair," said MetroED Director Sylvia Karp.

Currently, 7,000 adults use the programs. Without two thirds of its budget, MetroED will serve just 2,000 adults and all core classes, like English as a Second Language, GED, and vocational skills, will be scaled back dramatically. All enrichment classes like knitting or arts will be cancelled and 99 teachers will be laid off.

"It's more important for the adults to have a good education so they can support their children," said Christina Reyes, an adult education student.

"These guys [kids] only get one chance. This is it, we need to start at the low level," said Kristy Culp-Leonard, a parent.

The cuts to adult education will begin in May.

School districts throughout the Bay Area are also hurting. ABC7 checked in to see how other adult education programs are being affected. We didn't get an answer from Mount Diablo Unified. The San Francisco Unified School District tells ABC7 there have not been any adult education cuts yet, but Oakland Unified slashed its program last summer, closing two adult education campuses and discontinuing many courses.