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4/18/2019 Commission recommends moving adult education programs to DLT
STATE HOUSE – A Senate commission that studied the issue has determined that adult learners in Rhode Island would be better served by moving the administration of adult education programs from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to the Governor’s Workforce Board within the Department of Labor and Training.

The commission, led by Sen. Harold M. Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), met over the course of this winter and concluded that, because adult learners’ needs are different than those of children, the move would better position them to gain the skills they need to be a part of today’s workforce.

“Our goal is to make sure that the adults who need education are able to access it quickly and that the skills they learn and the classes that are offered are suited to the needs of people who want to be ready for success in the workforce,” said Senator Metts. “Many are people with families, and they may be working but need to improve their skills so they can qualify for a job that will better support them. They are not children – they are adults with adult needs, and they need flexible programs that are focused on preparing them for the real life that they are already living.”

The Department of Education has worked collaboratively since 2007 with the Governor’s Workforce Board on its programs for adult learners. Moving the operations over to the Governor’s Workforce Board would allow the adult education system to build upon that foundation, to better emphasize workforce-readiness objectives and to expand collaborative efforts with other agencies, the commission said in its final report, released April 5.

While the majority of states house their adult education programs within their departments of education, there has been a trend toward moving these programs to agencies that more typically serve adult needs. Nineteen states now run their adult education programs out of their departments of higher education, their departments of labor or workforce development, or their departments of community and technical colleges.

The 13-member commission included Senator Metts, Sen. James E. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton) and representatives from the Department of Education, higher education, workforce development and agencies that help those in need of adult education.

The commission emphasized the importance of collaboration between state agencies, including the Department of Education, to ensure that students are served effectively and swiftly and that resources are maximized. Rhode Island’s budget for adult education programs is $7.9 million this fiscal year, and those programs are expected to serve nearly 5,700 adult learners. About 94 percent of those in the programs enter with less than a ninth-grade education level.

Besides moving the administration of the programs, the commission also recommended that an adult education advisory committee within the Governor’s Workforce Board offer recommendations specific to adult education.

The commission also made several other specific recommendations for that advisory committee, including ensuring that the state’s plan on adult education includes a framework for when to include 16- and 17-year-olds who have left the K-12 system. It also recommended that the advisory committee ensure that data on the programs be carefully collected and analyzed to assess demand and progress of the programs. Further, the commission recommended that DLT develop a centralized data intake system to be used by all adult education providers, with an emphasis on reducing the current waiting list. That list is currently about 1,500 people, although it includes some duplication because various providers maintain their own lists and individuals may sign up for multiple programs.

While the purpose of the move is to better prepare learners for the workforce, the commission also stated the importance of ensuring that the programs are helpful to all learners, including those who wish to go on to higher education and those who want to gain literacy skills for purposes that include taking citizenship tests, helping their children in school, and otherwise participating in society.

Senator Metts expects to introduce legislation next week to effectuate the move, with a goal of completing the transition by the end of 2019.

Gov. Gina M. Raimondo thanked the commission for its work.
“In order to position Rhode Island for long-term economic success, we must better address the unique needs of our adult learners,” said Governor Raimondo. “I’m grateful to the members of the commission for their commitment to this issue, and for the thought and deliberation that went into making these recommendations. I look forward to working with the legislature to make the proposed changes that will best serve the many adult learners in our state.”   

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923