In celebration of the national Adult Education and Family Literacy Week 2017, World Education is launching this blog series on Raising Our Civic Voices. We join the National Coalition for Literacy and the Coalition on Adult Basic Education (COABE) to raise our voices this week — and every week — for the millions of adults in the United States for whom basic education opportunities are not available due to limited funding and employer investment in upskilling the workforce. In this blog series, we examine strategies and resources for advancing learning opportunities to achieve economic mobility and equity for lower-skilled adults, be they immigrants or U.S.-born.
We are pleased to include in this series a guest blog by Jeff McLynch, Director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education (MCAE) because as Jeff writes, “there is always more than one song to be sung on behalf of adult students and educators.” MCAE exemplifies this multi-issue advocacy approach through its participation in the Raise Up Massachusetts campaign to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour and to pass legislation that would create a new paid family and medical leave program in Massachusetts. We at World Education heartily embrace this campaign, recognizing it would provide a measure of economic security that low-income adults need as they pursue careers that hold the promise of better wages. For many adult learners, a higher minimum wage could mean the difference between being able to attend classes or having to work two jobs which would leave no time for school. As we help adults improve their basic skills and as we build better career ladders, we should also advocate for policies and practices that make front-line workers’ current jobs better in terms of wages, benefits, and stable schedules.
Likewise, we raise our civic voices to promote immigrant rights, integration, and pathways to citizenship. In countless employment sectors and in countless ways, immigrants contribute significantly to our communities and are essential to a healthy U.S. economy. Adult education programs nationwide serve hundreds of thousands of immigrants whose opportunities for learning and economic mobility are curtailed by anti-immigrant policies and behaviors – no matter how large an allocation we get for adult education at the federal or state levels.
We call on our fellow adult educators, learners, and advocates to reach out to your federal and local elected representatives, employers, and other stakeholders to advocate for all low-skilled, low-wage adults—including immigrants–and make a case for the critical importance of widening access to high-quality adult education from basic literacy to free two-year college. We join the Educate and Elevate campaign led by COABE and National Council of State Directors of Adult Education in calling for increasing federal funding to the level authorized in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to $649 million. The Educate and Elevate website equips you with national facts and infographics. The blogs that follow will highlight complementary resources for supporting and engaging adult learners in these efforts.