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Will -- or should -- adult schools remain 'the quiet corner' of local education?

Original post made by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus, on May 22, 2013

In about eight years, the Palo Alto Adult School will be observing its 100th anniversary -- a century of promoting the notion that learning can be for a lifetime.

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Comments (6)

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 22, 2013 at 10:17 am

Will, or should, Adult Schools be operated by the State, requiring public subsidy—should perhaps be a better question. Why shouldn’t these activities be shifted to the private sector—so that the “true costs” of this education service can be known to those who are its customers, and the public? Currently, there is virtually no information published by the PAUSD that illuminates direct, and indirect costs—such as teacher salaries, building subsidies, and future pension obligations for teachers in this “quiet corner” system.

> And as state officials ponder the future of education in
> desperate-budget years

The US Department of Education documents that about 9% of the US GDP is consumed by pubic schools—more if all the private schools are considered. And even more yet when long-term pension obligations are definitely not in these calculations, either! What is Mr. Thorwaldsen talking about? Or is he just parroting the “education company” line?

Here in California, 40% of the State’s General Fund is dedicated to “education”. Given that relatively rich Basic Aid school districts pay most of their own expenses, the actual cost of education is hard to express in simple ways—given how complex, and non-transparent, so much of the revenue streams for public schools happens to be.

The California should be looking at this “obligation to education” that has been a publicly-expressed sentiment, at the polls, anyway. Education is very expensive, and it does not provide much in the way of returns, other than for those currently becoming very wealthy as education system employees. There are perhaps 2M full, and part-time, employees of “government” (state/county/city/education/special districts) in California. The last Census shows about 1M of those employees are in the education system. That’s about one education system employee for each individual taxpayer. It’s hard to look forward at the ever-increasing number of state employees and wonder how long can this go on?

It’s a shame that Jay Thorwaldson has drifted into nostalgia about Adult Education, rather than some hard-headed analysis of the costs, and benefits, and future of this government activity.

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Posted by Life-long Learner
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I have always enjoyed learning new things, and I love researching. I agree with the above statements, though, that the government should not be funding this, it belongs in the private sector. If the public has to pay full price, they will appreciate it more, and. Ot be so likely to start a class and then drop it before completion.

The government needs to concentrate on the education of children and young adults, and that includes higher education including grad school.

Older adult education needs more publicity and more private funding.

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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on May 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm

I suspect ESL classes "pay it forward" in reducing costs for education the children of ESL Adult ed students. Do these classes belong at high schools or at the community colleges?

As far as the other enrichment classes, if they are self supporting, then why not continue them? Do the fees cover the cost of the classes, including the instructors and any office staff time? Are adult ed enrichment classes any different than the City subsidized Enjoy catalog or Children's theater from a public support standpoint?

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Posted by Wendie
a resident of Midtown
on May 26, 2013 at 5:13 pm

I work as an Area Director for AuPairCare. Most of my au pairs in the area take the English Enrichment classes at PAAS and all seem to benefit greatly fro them. Adult schools are the best option for au pairs since international fees at the community colleges are so expensive.

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Posted by Marty
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 2, 2013 at 11:13 pm

Adult education serves a wider function than seniors getting cheap classes. Statewide, many adult ed. students are high school dropouts getting a second chance at becoming productive citizens. It is well worth our money to help those students get diplomas or GED certificates and then go on to jobs or college. The alternative is to let them continue to be unemployed and watch as they turn to criminal activities to get money.

Like those students, legal ESL immigrants can learn to become productive citizens. Thing is, until those students have an income, they cannot afford to pay much for classes. A typical Adult Ed ESL student has been in the USA for several years and has been working at menial, dead-end jobs just to survive. Many have had limited education-4-5 years total--before coming here. Educated parents can help educate their kids.

An educated population is an advantage for all of us; however, I suppose those who want a source of cheap labor would not agree.

Non-academic classes for seniors usually have fees based on the type of class.

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Posted by local gem
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2013 at 1:13 am

Even though I had the best university education, by far the best writing classes I ever took were from the Palo Alto Adult School. I remember having to FAX in my application the moment enrollment opened.

Not everything that seems too good to be true, really is.

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