Recent actions and inactions by Congress over the last several weeks once again point to education and adult education in particular as low priorities in the overall budget agenda. The good news was that the first budget drafts showed no significant cuts to adult education or related programs of value to our field, such as Americorps. The disappointing news is that the ongoing discussions and refinement on the budget and tax reform has included no discussion about adult education or workforce development. Once again the lack of attention is worrisome given the old adage “out of sight out of mind.”
With this in mind, it is critical that adult education programs are regularly included as a major issue in discussions and legislative debates that impact the budget. It is clear that nearly every social issue can be linked to low adult literacy. In each case there is little room for improvement without recognizing the need for adult basic education.
Homelessness will not be resolved if those in need cannot read and write well enough to seek assistance, get a job, or help themselves find much needed services. Those in need of better health services won’t know where to find them or how to take advantage of free services if they lack basic skills that will better guide them to improved health. It is vital to our cause that we raise these issues whenever we have the opportunity.
We need to take advantage of opportunities to underscore the importance of our issue whenever possible by contacting policymakers, funders, and other influencers to share with them the important link between adult literacy levels and other social issues. As tax reform takes shape we need to point out that low-level learners might neither understand the changes nor be able to take advantage of them without improved basic skills. The financial cost alone will outdistance the limited increase in resources required to improve basic skills.
We all need to continue to raise awareness of how low literacy is connected to these other social issues on a sustained and regular basis—not doing so will not only hurt our cause, but more importantly, deprive millions of low-skilled Americans of services they desperately need. We cannot do this without the help of our network.
Writing a letter is more effective and has more of an impact than sending an email. Let’s continue writing letters and reminding our representatives how essential adult education resources are to change lives. The more letters we write, the greater chance we will be heard.