Hart: Proposals to eliminate adult education, literacy programs unlikely to succeed

Efforts by Republican lawmakers to ease Arizona's $1.3 billion budget deficit by eliminating state adult education and family literacy programs are not likely to happen, Rep.

Joe Hart, R-Kingman, said.

"We're moving things around here and there right now to see what fits," Hart said Thursday.

"We hope to hold spending to $6.2 billion and programs like adult education and family literacy are too important (to totally eliminate).

"Everyone is going to have to tighten their belts some.

"We're trying to cut everything by three percent and, with some adjustments, everyone can survive a three percent cut."

Senate Appropriations Chairman Bob Burns, R-Glendale, told the Associated Press that adult education and family literacy programs were considered for elimination because they serve relatively few people.

The programs offer free instruction to more than 45,000 Arizona residents annually.

Adult education costs $4.4 million and family literacy another $1 million annually.

If eliminated, the savings would be channeled into mandatory increases in K-12 education, Burns said.

House and Senate Appropriation committees are to vote on the Republican proposal Tuesday, Hart said.

"The 45,000 people served by those programs in Arizona is merely the tip of the iceberg as far as people who need those services," Thomas Henry, president of Mohave Community College, said.

Roughly 2,000 people per year attend the college's Foundation Study Center, where they prepare to take the General Equivalency Diploma test, Henry said.

Last fiscal year, MCC received about $105,000 in state funds and a matching amount of federal money for adult education, Bill Lovejoy, vice president of administration, said.

The college also gets just more than $8,000 from the state annually for family literacy programs.

"Every study done tells us that when a student gets a GED and goes on to post-secondary education or gets a job the return on the investment is huge," Henry said.

"Cutting these programs would be pennywise and pound foolish because it would keep students from going on to get diplomas and more than minimum wage jobs."

Instead of considering axing adult education and family literacy programs, lawmakers should consider "quadrupling the investment to the tenth power," Henry said.

Charlene Haffner, president of the Kingman Literacy Council, also is worried, although for a different reason.

Her organization receives roughly $3,000 annually in private funding.

The council helps 20-25 adults learn to read annually.

"If the programs are cut it would affect us in the sense we would need more tutors," Haffner said.

"We'd have to pick up the slack."

The Kingman Literacy Council is geared toward helping adults learn to read.

But it has adult volunteers working with children at La Senita and Hualapai elementary schools and Kingman Junior High School.

Seventh- and eighth-grade students at Black Mountain School have been trained by the council to tutor younger children there in reading, she said.

Haffner said it has taken a long time to get out the word that the council offers free services to those who need reading help.

Another training session is to be held in April to attract new tutors.

Anyone wishing information may call Haffner at 692-7101 or board member Lee Morton at 757-3356.

WELCOME (Workplace Education and Literacy Coalition Of MohavE) is another organization watching the adult education and family literacy issues closely.

President Debbie Burnham-Kidwell said WELCOME's purpose is to ensure literacy councils in Kingman, Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City coordinate their efforts and to refer people who can't be helped by one of those councils to the Foundation Study Center at MCC.

"Cutting these programs will impact on everyone," Burnham-Kidwell said.

"We're a volunteer organization and the idea that volunteers can suddenly take over the massive job of teaching reading and getting people into the literacy programs they need to be productive in life and the workforce is a real mistake on the part of the state.

"We have no illusions that we can take on 23 percent of the population without a high school diploma.

It boggles the mind to think any volunteer group could pick that up."

Burnham-Kidwell said WELCOME also is privately funded and receives about $3,000 annually.