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6/18/2019 Senate passes Metts bill to help improve administration of adult ed programs
STATE HOUSE – The Senate today approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Harold M. Metts to move 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 and help make the programs more responsive to adult learners’ needs.

The legislation, which was a recommendation of a Senate commission that studied the issue earlier this year, establishes the Office of Adult Education and Literacy within the Governor’s Workforce Board to carry out adult education and literacy services.

The commission, which was led by Senator Metts (D-Dist. 6, Providence), 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.

While the purpose of the move is to better prepare learners for the workforce, the study 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.

The bill, which would take effect Dec. 31, establishes the Adult Education and Employment Advisory Committee within the Governor’s Workforce Board to guide the board on adult education issues. The advisory committee would consist of the directors of the Department of Labor and Training, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Corrections; the education commissioner and the commissioner of postsecondary education; the director of adult education professional development at the Community College of Rhode Island; and such other members as the board may decide.

The legislation also enacts several other specific recommendations from the study commission, including categorizing services targeting the needs they serve, such as basic education, career and technical education and continuing education; 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; requirements for analysis of adult education programs’ progress; and the development of a centralized data intake system to be used by all adult education providers to help reduce waiting lists. Currently about 1,500 people are on waiting lists for adult education programs in the state, although that number includes some duplication because various providers maintain their own lists and individuals may sign up for multiple programs.

The bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives, is cosponsored by Sen. James E. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton), who also served on the study commission; Sen. Hanna M. Gallo (D-Dist. 27, Cranston, West Warwick); Sen. James C. Sheehan (D-Dist. 36, North Kingstown, Narragansett); and Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence).

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