Adult Students Look to Education to Help their Children

School News NetworkBy: Erin Albanese – School News Network

Lori Hayes is finishing up math and science courses in the Wyoming Public Schools Adult Education Program to earn her GED. Once in awhile, she has to bring her 10-year-old daughter, Chloe, to class with her.

One day, after listening to a lesson led by teacher Justin Van Etten, Chloe walked up to the white board and correctly finished a math problem. “That’s why I’m doing this,” said Hayes, who has two other daughters, ages 17 and 15. “I didn’t really see how important this is until I saw her up there doing what I was learning. It was inspiring.”

Hayes, 37, is among thousands of adults statewide working to earn GEDs, improving their basic literacy and math skills or learning English in state-funded adult education programs. They are seeking brighter futures, better paying jobs, college degrees and careers. Many, like Hayes, also hope to give their children a better chance at their own dreams.

School News NetworkHayes and Jeremy Showell, also a Wyoming student, served as first-hand voices on the impact of adult education programs and the need for improved investment and resources. They joined fellow students from across the state in addressing legislators and key policymakers during “FamilySpeak: Building Family Literacy Through Adult Education” at the State Capitol in Lansing.

The event was hosted by Michigan’s Children, a nonprofit organization focused on the needs of the most challenged children from birth to adulthood and their families, and the Michigan Association of Community and Adult Education, which works to provide a framework for community education at the local, state and federal levels.

Bob Steeh, president of MACAE, said state aid for adult education was reduced in the 1990s from $80 million to $22 million, forcing many programs to close. Now allocations total about $25 million, and students in state-funded programs, usually run through school districts, have dropped from 80,000 to 29,000 per year. Programs decreased from 175 to 75.

Fewer locations mean many students make long daily treks to get to class.

School News Network“It all equates to how you can access programs. My biggest argument is if we want to curb poverty and change the lives of families, we have to do something about that,” Steeh said.

As the state is pushing to improve third-grade reading proficiency, investment needs to target the entire family, said Michele Corey, vice president of programs for Michigan’s Children. Statewide, 42,000 people ages 18-34 have less than a ninth-grade education.

“There’s a lot of evidence that talks about how connected the kids’ educational success is with their parents’ educational success,” she said.

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