Adult Ed & Literacy Act passes CO Ed Cmte.

By Bryan Wilson, January 30, 2014

On January 26, the Colorado House Education Committee passed the Adult Education and Literacy Act (HB 1085) that would create a state-funded program for adult education. The bill, sponsored by Representative Rhonda Fields and Senator Rachel Zenzinger, establishes a $1.2 million state program to provide basic literacy and numeracy education for individuals 17 years or older who are not enrolled in secondary education and who do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Currently, there is no state funding for adult basic education in Colorado, making Colorado unique among the states. 

The Colorado Skills2Compete (S2C) Campaign was instrumental in developing the legislation and the bill is the coalition’s top priority this legislative session. S2C Campaign members, Chaer Robert of the Colorado Center on Law and Policy and Frank Waterous of the Bell Policy Center, testified in support of the bill.

As the bill notes, “Before Colorado can meet its workforce, educational attainment, and poverty-reduction goals, the state must address the need for adult aducation. A significant percentage of the state’s working-age population lacks a high school diploma or its equivalent.” According to the Bell Policy Center, 430,000 working-age Coloradans do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent.

A newly released study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finds that 18 percent of America’s adult population has literacy skills that are too low to function effectively in our society and economy. When it comes to adult basic skills, the United States compares poorly to most of our economic competitors. U.S. adult literacy skills are lower than in 15 other OECD nations.

Under HB 1085, the Office for Adult Education within the Department of Education would allocate grants to local partnerships. The local partnerships would include adult basic education providers, higher education and workforce development. The bill would require similar collaboration among state partners and would refocus adult education on the goals of postsecondary credential attainment and positive employment outcomes for students.   

The bill now moves on to the House Appropriations Committee.