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State funding for adult literacy classes proved insufficient, classes continue with schools' aid

    The state's amended budget for the 2007 fiscal year left the needs of the Technical College System of Georgia unmet, which caused system leaders to consider furloughing adult literacy instructors. An interruption in the June classes would have meant no education programs for the more than 68,000 literacy students who are currently enrolled throughout the state. But a solution was found to avoid cutting the classes.
    Leave without pay was the likely option after the technical colleges sought, but failed to receive, $1.8 million in supplemental funding for the instructors’ salaries in the state’s mid-year 2007 budget.  The money, which was in the Gov. Sonny Perdue's proposed budget, was not included in final version as passed by the legislature.  
    To resolve the situation without furloughing instructors, each technical college president submitted a plan to Department of Technical and Adult Education Commissioner Ron Jackson detailing how they would pay their literacy instructors’ June salaries. The technical college system’s patchwork proposal includes using money from college foundations, donations from businesses and individuals, bookstore profits and deferring local funds set aside for equipment purchases.
    The system exhausted its contingency funds and redirected other cash to provide for the instructors’ May salaries. The balance left the adult literacy program $915,000 in the red for the last 30 days of the fiscal year.   
    “Adult literacy is vital to Georgia because it changes lives and contributes to an educated workforce," Jackson said. "The solution we have proposed is far from perfect, but the FY 07 Amended Budget left us with no other choice. I’m very grateful to our college presidents, their faculty and staff, the local college boards and all throughout the state who have enabled us to continue with uninterrupted literacy services."
    Locally, Ogeechee Technical College will experience a shortfall of approximately $23,000. Three full-time instructors, one in each of OTC’s three county service area (Bulloch, Evans, and Screven), would have been furloughed for the month of June had the college not redirected local funds to cover their salaries and benefits.  
    Dr. Dawn Cartee, president of Ogeechee Tech, stated, “It was never a question of whether or not we would continue Adult Literacy services to our students through the end of this fiscal year; it was a question of where the funds would come from. While it is certainly not easy to come up with additional funding from within our existing budget at fiscal year end, we are going to redirect funds that would have been used for equipment purchases, staff development, and other areas to ensure that there is no interruption of services provided to our Adult Literacy students.”  
    While all services provided at OTC are important, literacy efforts are the foundation for all other areas of instruction, Cartee said.
    “Something as basic as the ability to read and comprehend is essential for success in an educational program which will lead to employment,” Dr. Cartee said.  
“Our mission is to provide education and training that helps students obtain jobs and improve their lives, and for many students, adult literacy is the first step in that process."
    Georgia’s adult literacy instructors educate more than 96,000 students annually and last year their efforts enabled almost 20,000 men and women to earn their GEDs.  While those numbers are substantial, there’s still much work to be done to reach the more than 1.3 million adult Georgians who have less than a high school education.
    Future literacy funding seems secure. The 2008 budget, which takes effect July 1 and is presently pending the governor’s signature, contains sufficient funding to keep all adult literacy personnel on the job in the 2008 fiscal year.

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