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ProLiteracy Calls for Additional Funding in the President's Budget Request to Address Adult Literacy

Recently, President Obama announced his FY16 budget request to Congress to fund adult education. ProLiteracy was extremely disappointed to see a virtually flat budget compared to FY15, especially in light of brand new WIOA legislation, an act long overdue for addressing the needs of millions of American adults with very basic skills.

While national leadership activities saw a modest increase of $6 million, state grants are proposed to be funded at the same level as FY15—approximately $5.5 billion. This level is at least 15 percent below the amount authorized by WIOA.

The President has proposed separate new funding for a community college initiative and $200 million for a new American Technical Training Fund for job training programs. While ProLiteracy applauds these efforts, no mention was made of the 36 million low-literacy adults whose skills are far below those required to participate in community college programs, pass high school-equivalency exams, or even fill out job applications.

Data from the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies study (PIAAC) from 2013 show the depth of the adult literacy problem in the United States. Fifty-one percent of adults 16-24 and nearly 50 percent of those in the 25-34 and 35-44 cohorts scored at the two very lowest literacy levels. This is our nation’s workforce. We need to respond to the needs of these populations—those at the highest risk—immediately. Childhood literacy cannot be solved without first addressing adults.

Ten years ago, 52 percent of ProLiteracy member programs—comprised of primarily community-based organizations and volunteers—received federal/state funding. Now, for 2013-14, our data shows that under 38 percent of our programs receive this funding. The adult literacy problem has increased from 30 million adults in 2003 with very low skills to 36 million in 2013. Without funding to support this population, the adult literacy problem in the United States will continue to grow. ProLiteracy implores President Obama to increase funding for state adult education grants.




ProLiteracy Receives American Express Grant to Develop Financial Literacy Tools for Women

ProLiteracy, the largest adult literacy and basic education membership organization in the United States, has received support from American Express to develop a financial literacy education project aimed at assisting low-literate women with managing money.

The Women and Financial Literacy project will include updating ProLiteracy’s “Control Your Money” guidebook, creating an online collection of companion resources, and developing an interactive mobile application.

“In our 2014 Women and Financial Literacy white paper, we found that 57 percent of women with low literacy do not know what their credit score is,” says Kevin Morgan, president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “Yet our research showed that the overwhelming majority of these women desire to learn more about financial literacy and how to manage their money. The goal of this grant program is to provide women with the confidence they need to create personal or household budgets and to more actively participate in the management of their families’ finances.”

A pilot group of 10 ProLiteracy member programs serving an estimated 200 students will complete the facilitated financial literacy online courses and receive 200 "Control Your Money" guides and app downloads. Ultimately, these pilot efforts will help refine the project materials and resources so they can be shared with literacy providers nationwide. The Women and Financial literacy project will also be presented at the ProLiteracy National Conference on Adult Literacy in Charleston, SC, in October 2015.

“We’re grateful to American Express for this support, which will go a long way toward empowering low-literate women as earners, savers, and borrowers and help give them the knowledge and confidence they need to understand basic financial principles,” says Morgan. “We look forward to make positive strides toward improving the financial literacy education of women with low literacy.”




ProLiteracy Applauds President Obama’s Community College Plan, Calls for Additional Support for Adult Literacy Programs

On Friday, President Obama announced two proposals intended to increase access to high-quality skills training. One, America’s College Promise, will make two years of community college free for up to 9 million qualifying students. The second proposal is for a new American Technical Training Fund, which aims to support training programs through community colleges to help low-wage workers gain the necessary credentials and skills needed to be competitive in the job market. While ProLiteracy supports these new initiatives and the President’s commitment to adult education, the proposals do not address the importance of funding support for adult literacy programs that are helping millions of adults at the very lowest literacy levels. These adults need basic assistance in order to gain the skills needed to move on to future educational and job-related goals.

“ProLiteracy commends the President for taking the necessary steps to make adult education training accessible,” says Kevin Morgan, president and CEO of ProLiteracy. “However, there are 36 million adults in the United States who critically need remedial assistance before being eligible to take advantage of these community college training programs.”

ProLiteracy is calling for the President to address the needs of service providers who are helping at-risk populations, including recent immigrants seeking English language support in order to continue education and find jobs. Many of these learners are being served by ProLiteracy’s network, but the funding has not been proportional to the need.

“Additional funding is required to get low-literate adults to the level that will allow them to take advantage of post-secondary education,” says Morgan. “We’re calling for more support and funding for adult literacy and adult education programs to help adults get to the starting line of community college. We cannot continue to allow these adults to be left behind.”



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