Now that the two major political party conventions are over, the presidential election will enter its final phase.
We saw very little discussion of adult education by either party, but we were glad to see one of our students open the Republican National Convention with the Pledge of Allegiance. We heard some discussion of education at the Democratic National Convention but not nearly enough to address the problem of adult basic skill deficiencies.
ProLiteracy plans to continue to push all candidates to address the issue, and we encourage local programs to do the same when they interact with national, state, or local candidates. This is a critical election year and speaking up now on behalf of adult learners nationwide is more important than ever.
While the presidential election is important, another vital bellwether item for the adult literacy field is the funding process and resources for our field. Once again, it appears that federal-level funding is recommended to be flat for another year. The current amount is not meeting the needs of adult literacy programs across the country. Our annual member survey indicated that over the past six years our member programs have received 10% less funding while 68% of programs have waiting lists averaging three months. The funding process is far from over, but it appears that we will see the need for services continue to rise and available resources remain the same.
This reoccurring reality makes it all the more important that we continue to focus on the political process as a vehicle for increased resources. Regardless of who wins the presidency, we need to ensure that Congress sees adult literacy as a priority and commits additional resources to help programs better serve adult learners. Our efforts at the national, state, and local levels need to be focused on increasing resources. Awareness of the issue is important, but without additional funding it will be difficult to address the issue. We need to insist that with more funding we can find solutions to these problems.
While many problems aren’t solved simply by “throwing money at them,” this is an exception. With adequate resources at the adult and K-12 education levels, the problem of adult low-literacy could be a problem of the past, and we will also see a positive return on investment for a multitude of other social issues. If we don’t muster up the will to achieve this goal, we will continue to address it with inadequate resources and make limited progress.
If you’d like to help advocate for adult literacy, visit the Become an Advocate section of the ProLiteracy website. There you can sign up to receive email updates and action alerts, search for your government officials by zip code, and download a free toolkit with adult literacy talking points and tips for contacting your elected officials. The more we demand action from our representatives, the more progress we will make together.