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Oklahoma cuts funding for adult education

State funding for adult education in Oklahoma — $2.3 million — was eliminated this year. For those unemployed or underemployed, the cuts could reduce life-changing educational opportunities.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: July 11, 2011

When Donald Prince, 38, lost his job with Cox Communications after 11 years, his little white lie caught up with him.

“I'd told them I graduated from high school,” Prince admits.

“Really, this day and age you have to have it now. Without a GED or high school diploma, it's like a brick wall.”

Prince said he was afraid to apply for management positions or to try to advance his career because they might find out he never finished school.

Today he is one of thousands of Oklahoma adults using a free state resource to earn his high school equivalency diploma. He plans to enroll in college courses to further increase his earning capacity.

Adults in many communities are on waiting lists to take courses, and the wait likely will grow longer.

All state funding for adult education was eliminated from the fiscal year 2012 budget, a $2.3 million loss.

‘Caught off guard'

Adult education teachers from across the state — Bartlesville, Chickasha, Duncan, Enid, Lawton, Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Union — held an emergency phone conference last week to discuss the funding loss.

“We were totally caught off guard,” said Ann Allen, executive director of adult and community education for Oklahoma City Public Schools. “In our directors' meeting, we were told it might be 4 or 8 percent.”

Now many programs are struggling to remain open. The loss of state dollars also threaten federal funding — about $6 million statewide — that requires local matching funds.

Allen said the loss of state funding was a 25 percent reduction in her overall budget.

Allen said this school year they will be down 12 teachers and will probably serve 600 fewer students.

Some of the rural communities are facing much greater losses.

Closing offices

In Caddo County, Lisa Gragg, had to close two satellite offices, lay off the only full-time teacher and eliminate all evening and all English-language classes.

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