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Effect of National and State Laws on Adult Education in the Community Colleges of Washington Engman, Kenneth L.

Abstract

Adult education, a formalized part of the post secondary education in the State of Washington; is, in 1975, suffering from a lack of nourishment. National laws, usually resulting in grants to programs, or directly to students, have helped maintain adult education and community service. Congress has been non-specific in its legislation, leaving most of the disbursement to the various states in accord with the state plans or guidelines set up to accept the funding. Only a few of the many national laws deal exclusively or specifically with adult education, for the most part adult education is covered in the general guidelines for education as congress sought to help. The State of Washington was much more specific. By 1967, Washington had passed the Community College Act, which assigned the area of adult education and community services directly, and almost exclusively, to the community colleges. The community colleges of Washington, recipients of this task, were not ready educationally, philosophically, nor by physical plant or financial means to carry out the law's mandate. Unfortunately for adult education, the academic staff, the college presidents and instructional deans were not oriented to adult education. As a result, there has been a steady decline in adult programs, both in number and quality. The governor-appointed college boards and the State Board for Community College Education and its staff also have exhibited little or no interest in adult education. Funding for this mandated area has received minimal attention. Community Colleges in Washington have no tax base. Their monies come from part of the student fees, and the majority by direct legislative appropriation. Though Washington's constitution places the financial burden for all schools square on the shoulders of the state, the state has not met its responsibility, and a special levy system for K-12 education has evolved. The "Northshore case" was of great concern to all schools since it asked the state to assume total responsibility for funding. The State Supreme Court dissented in a surprise decision. The State Legislature placed three community college areas on the same footing: academic, adult education, and vocational education, "with equal emphasis." Needless to say the emphasis has not been equal. Adult education accounted for less than 4 percent of the state's community college full-time equivalent students. If adult education is to receive anywhere near its financial share and supervisory attention in Washington, it appears that it will happen only because of drastic action from adult educators and an aroused public. One cannot generalize and say, "if you quit feeding it, it will go away," because some of the more recently opened of the twenty-two community colleges of the state are attempting to do a fair share of education of adults. The greater problems seem to lie with the older schools that were once junior colleges with long tenured staff, with the local boards, and especially, the State Board for Community College Education. The state board seems to have dropped the words, adult education, from its vocabulary when it speaks of long range plans. A turn about in this unequal treatment could readily be handled by existing administrators in the state, who have had much specialized training in adult education through federal grants. Many adult education administrators possess either Ph.D's or Ed.D's from outside the State of Washington. A huge backlog of competent staff is available to teach if this area were truly activated.

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