By far the most concerning cut on the Los Angeles Unified School District's most recent budget proposal: the entire Division of Adult and Career Education.
If all the adult schools and career centers are eliminated, as planned, close to 350,000 students will be displaced.
... it seems that providing motivated L.A. residents a second chance at basic competency is a mandatory supplement to the first time around.
In 2010-11, the graduation rate at LAUSD high schools was an embarrassing 56 percent. If adult education is wiped from the city, all the kids who were failed by the school system -- or, for outside circumstances, were failed by themselves -- will have no opportunity to re-enter working society.
Hence the giant rally planned outside the LAUSD Board of Education's downtown headquarters today, from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
(Not that the board will bat an eye; they're a little preoccupied with the fuming parents over at Miramonte Elementary.)
Planaria Price, a teacher at Evans Community Adult School, estimates that about 2,500 protesters showed up to the last one. But "This is the first time that we've rallied for them not to [completely] eliminate adult education," she says. And, later on in our conversation: "It's just heartbreaking."
Superintendent John Deasy argued to the Los Angeles Times that cuts have to be made somewhere:
The program may be "zeroed out," but it isn't being singled out, he said. "There are so many things that are going to be zeroed out of the budget, this is just the tip of the iceberg."
Deasy ticked off a list of likely cuts: preschool programs, elementary art, summer school and thousands of administrators, teachers, nurses, custodians, gardeners and cafeteria workers.
He's using a classic political tactic to avoid responsibility: pit two crucial services against each other, so officials don't have to take the blame.
"What they're doing is they're putting us in a competition with K-12," says Price. "Like, 'Would you rather we cut K-12?'" She adds that board members have told her, "Our hands are tied."
But if elected officials really want to get something funded, they know how to push it through. Price sees the $139 million that adult education needs to survive as a "drop in the bucket" compared to "consultants and travel, construction and building" prioritized in the LAUSD budget.
Eliminating all opportunities for adults to educate themselves could likewise have a grave effect on L.A.'s children. Any cuts that are made to the DACE program "would rob poor people of learning English, so they can't help their kids with school," says Price.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"One of my students asked me, a couple days ago, what 'social suicide' meant," says the teacher. "And I thought, 'What a gorgeous phrase -- because we will commit social suicide in Los Angeles if we cut adult education.'"
And that's a fact. From 2003's Workforce Literacy Project:
Los Angeles has the highest rate of so-called undereducated adults of any major U.S. metropolitan area. Low-literacy rates reached 65% on the Eastside and 84% in South Los Angeles.