Thursday, March 18, 1999

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Hundreds of people marched in front of the state Capitol today
to protest proposed cuts to adult education. A Senate bill would
slice funding to adult education in half and require
fee increases for recreational classes.

Adult education
students protest
proposed cuts

A Senate bill could slash
program funding by 50% and
require fee increases for
recreational classes

By Craig Gima


IN a second-level English class at the McKinley Community School for Adults, teacher Loryn Gum explained the meaning of the phrase "nine o'clock sharp."

"It's very, very strong when someone says the meeting will start at nine o'clock sharp. If your boss says that, that's a hint not to be late," Gum told her students.

Gum asked her students to practice using the phrase.

1999 Hawaii State Legislature "We are going to the state Capitol," one student said. "We have to go there at eight o'clock sharp."

Gum's English class and hundreds of other adult education students were to be at the Capitol today to protest a Senate bill that could cut funding for adult education in half and require fee increases for recreational classes to make up the difference.

It's the second year in a row adult education students turned out to protest Senate cuts. Last year, lawmakers backed down after a similar protest.

Ways and Means Chairwoman Carol Fukunaga (D, Makiki) said the proposal came up again this year because "we're still looking for money."

She said the intent of the bill is to make classes like golf, tennis and ukulele making pay for their true costs.

"They (the current fees for general interest classes) cover the costs of the instructors," Fukunaga said. "They do not cover the cost of the facilities or the administrative staff."

But administrators say there is no way increased fees can cover a 50 percent cut in the $4.8 million annual appropriation. The state cannot charge fees other than for materials for basic adult education classes and general interest classes are just 15 percent to 20 percent of course offerings.

The Department of Education estimates the cut would increase the cost of general interest courses from $37 to $137 and would result in fewer students taking those classes and further cuts in both general interest and basic education classes.

Administrators also say the bill would jeopardize $1.3 million in federal money contingent on states maintaining the same level of adult education funding.

For Emiko Nishimura, a cut in adult education could make it difficult for her to learn English.

"I'm taking care of my grandson," she said. "I want to talk to his teacher and that's why I need English so much."

"The population that needs adult education are the people who are trying to get off welfare and people who are trying to get better jobs," said Steve Miyasato, an adult education specialist.

"I'd rather my tax dollars go to educating them so they can get a job," said Carmen Grindstaff, who is trying to get her high school diploma more than 30 years after she dropped out.

"I'm tired of faking it. I want my paper," she said.

Grindstaff said she was illiterate when she dropped out of school in the 10th grade. She said she used an adult education class to learn how to read, but still did not get a diploma.

Grindstaff said she was able to get jobs and was eventually promoted to a retail supervisor."I could talk you into buying something, but I never felt satisfied. I didn't finish school," she said.

Grindstaff is taking an alternative competency based high school diploma program at McKinley. Once she completes the program, she hopes to go to college.

"My son said, 'Why you want to go back to school? You make plenty money.' I said, 'you guys never like finish college, I'm going to finish it for you.'"

The cut in funding and fee increase for adult education are part of a larger fee bill that could also increase A+ after-school fees, fishing license fees, boat moorage fees, and impose a road cleanup fee for towing companies.

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