Support Adult Learners: Fight Income Inequality

AEFL Week LogoWidespread and growing economic inequality is now a broadly acknowledged fact of life in the U.S.  Adult education has a role to play in opening opportunities for low-income people to gain the education and training needed to access employment opportunities that pay a living wage.

  • Nearly 30% of adults with household incomes at or below the poverty line do not have high school credentials.
  • Individuals with high school credentials earn about $10,000 more annually than those without.

Yet, education alone can’t address income inequality. And while national labor market data indicates the growing number of U.S. jobs that will require some postsecondary education, another high growth sector remains low-paying, low-quality service sector jobs. For example, the restaurant industry includes 7 of the 10 lowest paying jobs in the country. Therefore, higher education isn’t a sufficient antidote to income inequality.

Efforts at closing the growing income gap must include improving the quality of jobs offered in the growing service-sector economy.  Improving job quality would enable lower-skilled workers to earn family sustaining wages while undertaking longer-term efforts to improve their skills to access greater career opportunities.  In addition to wages and benefits, schedule stability is critical to the ability of low-wage workers to participate in education and training to upgrade their skills and advance in a career pathway.

In recognition of Adult Education and Family Literacy Week we urge you to take action to support literacy and living-wages for all.  Here’s how:

Teach about These Issues in Your Program!

  • Support students to learn about these issues and take action on them, whether it be voting on the ballot question or joining with already existing organizations in your community that are working on these issues.

Support Adult Education!

  • Call on your elected representatives to support adult education.
  • Support your local adult education program.

Support Living Wages!

State Ballot Questions
Alabama There is no ballot question this year, but there is a pending dispute between the Birmingham City Council, which voted in 2015 to raise the wage floor, incrementally, to $10.10. In response, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill voiding the local ordinance.

Raise Up Alabama

AZ The AZ Minimum Wage and Paid Time Off Initiative would raise the minimum wage to $10 in 2017 and then incrementally to $12 by 2020. It would also guarantee 40 hours of annual paid sick time to employees of large firms and 24 hours to those of small firms

Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA)

CO Colorado $12 Minimum Wage Amendment would raise the minimum wage from $8.31 to $9.30 per hour and increase 90 cents each year on January 1 until the wage reaches $12 in 2020.

Colorado Families for a Fair Wage


ME Maine Minimum Wage Increase Initiative, Question 4 increases the state’s minimum wage to $9 in 2017, $10 in 2018, $11 in 2019, and $12 in 2020.

Mainers for Fair Wages


MD Fight for 15 is a local campaign in Baltimore with a proposal before the City Council to raise the city’s minimum wage.

Fight for 15 Baltimore

MN 15 Now Minneapolis, is a campaign to raise the minimum wage in the city to $15.00/hour.

Minneapolis  15 Now

NJ In June, the New Jersey Senate approved legislation to increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.38 to $10.10 per hour on Jan. 1, 2017. If vetoed by Governor Christie, there will likely be a ballot initiative in 2017.

15 Now NJ

SC South Carolina Minimum Wage Increase Question may appear as an advisory question, which, if passed, would advise the state legislature to increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to one dollar above the federal minimum wage.

Fight for 15


SD South Dakota Decreased Youth Minimum Wage Referendum, Referred Law 20:“yes” vote supports Senate Bill 177 (SB 177), a law decreasing the minimum wage for workers under age 18 from $8.50 to $7.50


WA Washington Minimum Wage Initiative (ITP), if passed would incrementally raise the state’s minimum wage from $9.47 to $13.50 by 2020 and mandate employers to offer paid sick leave.

Raise Up Washington

For more information about these and other ballot initiatives:

Published by

Sandy Goodman

Sandy Goodman

Sandy is the Director of Career Pathways at the National College Transition Network. Her work includes designing and leading college transition and career pathways initiatives. She provides technical assistance and professional development to individual programs and state adult education systems on national, state, and local initiatives. Recent projects include: designing professional development for Accelerating Opportunity; directing the SABES Center for Education and Career Planning in Massachusetts; developing and delivering online and face-­to­-face training for college and career navigators; and strengthening of Prior Learning Assessment policies and their broader implementation as a postsecondary acceleration strategy for adult learners.