SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Educators of adults in California are pressing lawmakers to prioritize short-term retraining programs when the new session kicks off in January.
Budgets for adult-education programs were cut during the Great Recession and still have not recovered – although some experts say they’ll be key to economic recovery after the pandemic.
Marina Kravtsova came here from Russia nine years ago and loved her “English as a Second Language” class so much that she became a registrar at San Mateo Adult School. She said ESL is a game-changer for many immigrants.
“I remember feeling like a baby who cannot express ourselves,” she said, “so it was so difficult and depressing in the beginning – but the adult school, it helped us a lot. We gained back our confidence.”
In the recession-era budget cuts, salaries in adult education were depressed, which led to a shortage of teachers. That contributed to the state’s current shortage of essential workers, from home health-care and nurses to electricians, power-line technicians and plumbers.
Matthew Kogan, who teaches ESL to adults in the Los Angeles Unified School District, said the state will prosper as schools train people for better-paying jobs.
“In California, many employers feel they’re having trouble finding skilled workers,” he said. “And so, we feel we’re also helping people get the skills that our businesses need.”
Andrei Lucas, dean of automotive skills and technical trades with San Diego Continuing Education, said grants allow them to offer free, short-term courses in high-demand fields such as heating and air conditioning, auto repair and welding.
“We also give students the opportunity to continue with their education while they’re working,” he said, “and then move up in their careers.”
However, adult-ed programs have said that only with adequate funding can they retrain the workforce and improve the fortunes of the tens of thousands of Californians thrown out of work by the COVID-19 shutdowns.