On Tuesday, April 24 the executive director of the Washington Literacy Center testified before the DC Committee on Labor and Workforce Development Public Budget Oversight Hearing. During his testimony, Williams asked the Chair, Elissa Silverman and members of the Committee, which included literacy champion Council member Robert White, to restore and increase the funding capacity and support for basic adult literacy providers.
Last year the Workforce Investment Council and the Office of the State Superintendent (OSSE) partnered to provide Career Pathway Grants. While the move was well-intentioned, the focus on job training rather than traditional adult basic education left the providers like the Washington Literacy Center (WLC), Literacy Volunteers and Advocates (LVA) and Southeast Ministry (SEM) struggling and without direct OSSE funding. These are the only providers that almost exclusively serve and focus on adults reading at the lowest levels.
Each of these providers has had to drastically reduce staff and classes. Many students, who are most in need, have been harmed and left stranded by these cuts. The Washington Literacy Center has a waiting list of almost 300 students.
Williams said “for adults over the age of 25, the average student usually works at a low-wage, low-skilled job or has lost their job due to changes in the workforce or when their reading challenges become known.” When asked about the suggested amount requested to restore funds, Williams replied that $500,000 was at best conservative.
As a result, the three (WLC, LVA and SEM) providers recently formed the Alliance for Beginning Adult Learners (ABAL), a subcommittee of a larger group of adult and family literacy providers. ABAL members have agreed to work together to secure funding in the FY 19 Budget and to work together to secure funding and support of adult basic learners.