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Adult Education is Key to Reducing Economic Insecurity Facing 80% of U.S. Adults

ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the nation, today urged the nation’s leaders to invest more resources in adult literacy and basic education in light of a new Associated Press study, which indicates that 80 percent of American adults struggle with economic insecurity in the form of joblessness, near-poverty, or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives.

“We know that prosperity and job security are inextricably linked with basic education for all adults,” says Kevin Morgan, interim president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “What the AP study illustrates is the potentially damaging effects that lack of literacy and basic education can have on individuals, families, and entire communities.

“Investing now in adult literacy and basic education means helping Americans get the skills they need to find jobs, earn wages, strengthen communities, educate their children, and strengthen the economy,” Morgan continues. “The time for this investment is now. It’s critical. It can no longer be ignored.”

Currently, according to the latest data from the Department of Education, some 30 million American adults struggle to read, write, and do basic math at a third grade level, unable to fill out a job application, read a simple book to their children or grandchildren, or understand a prescription label. An additional 63 million adults function at the next highest level, unable to read, write, or do basic math above an eighth grade level. Sixty-seven percent of students enrolled in adult literacy programs have less than a 12th grade education, and 37 percent of students enrolled in adult literacy programs are unemployed.

Our data shows that funding for adult education and English language instruction has declined since 2002. Federally-funded literacy and basic education programs only reach 3 percent of those in need of adult literacy services.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, individuals who are at the lowest level of literacy have a higher unemployment rate than the national average of 7.6 percent. Those with less than a high school diploma were more than three times more likely to be unemployed in December 2012 as those with a bachelor's degree or higher.

“Adult literacy and basic education programs are crucial to alleviating poverty and putting Americans back to work,” Morgan concludes. “We urge President Obama, Congress, and all state governors to invest more resources into adult literacy and basic education today.”

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