Letters for Literacy

Letters for Literacy

It's up to US to Say NO to Budget Cuts for Adult Education

President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal includes dramatic cuts to adult education funding and the complete elimination of many federal programs that support adult literacy, workforce development, and human services.

The Department of Education is facing an overall cut of $9 billion (13%), including a $95 million cut (16%) to Adult Education and Family Literacy state grants.

We need thousands of adult learners, tutors, and advocates to write letters to their local representatives urging them to support adult literacy!
Writing a letter is more effective and has more impact than sending an email! Let’s continue changing lives with literacy by writing letters and reminding our representatives how essential those resources are.  The more letters we all write, the greater chance our words will be heard.

TAKE ACTION! For the love of literacy, let’s make a statement and start writing! 

With your words, we can work together to gain continued support for adult literacy. 

How to Participate in Letters for Literacy:

  • Write a letter to your representative asking them to say no to adult education budget cuts. Letter templates are provided. 
  • Locate your local representative. 
  • Educate your representative on the impact of adult education programs that help further the education, health, and employment of Americans. Share facts on the adult literacy crisis.
  • Please send us a copy of your letter so that we can help further your efforts of support. Send to jpaulding@proliteracy.org
  • Share #LettersForLiteracy on your social networks to help spread the word and gain support for adult literacy.

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Why Adult Literacy? The 7 Impacts of Low Adult Basic Skills

Why not focus on health, workforce development, or poverty relief? The answer is simple—adult literacy intersects with all of these. We won’t solve these socioeconomic problems unless we build a more literate adult population. Adult basic education programs bring a powerful return on investment, impacting the lives of Americans, their families, and communities. Adult basic education helps adults break cycles of inter-generational poverty and illiteracy by providing adults the skills they need to succeed as workers, parents, and citizens. Research shows that better-educated parents raise better-educated, more successful children who are less likely to end up in poverty or prison. The seven impacts of adult basic skills include:


There is a lot of focus on how early childhood education and the Common Core State Standards in K-12 are meant to better prepare students for success in college, career, and life. But research shows that focusing on educating kids without adequately addressing adults will not solve the skills gap. Children whose parents have low literacy levels have a 72 percent chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out. Low-literate parents who improve their own skills are more likely to have a positive impact on their children’s educational achievements.

An excess of $230 billion a year in health care costs is linked to low adult literacy skills. Nearly half of American adults have difficulty understanding and using health information. Lack of understanding impedes adults’ abilities to make appropriate health decisions and increases the likelihood that they’ll incur higher health costs. When one accounts for the future costs of low health literacy to taxpayers, the real present-day cost of low health literacy is in the range of $1.6 trillion to $3.6 trillion.

About 2 million immigrants come to the U.S. each year seeking better jobs and better lives. About 50 percent of them lack high school education and proficient English language skills, severely limiting their access to jobs and job training, college, and citizenship. This increases their vulnerability to unemployment and living in poverty. Not only are the adults at risk, but so are their children. Poverty in immigrant populations adds to the strain on the U.S. society, which is already dealing with a significant percentage of impoverished citizens.

One in every 100 U.S. adults 16 and older is in prison or jail (about 2.2 million in 2014). Seventy-five percent of state prison inmates and 59 percent of federal prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate. Ninety-five percent of those incarcerated are reintegrated into our communities. It is hard for them to find jobs when already burdened with a prison record, but it is nearly impossible when they lack basic literacy and technology skills. Research shows that inmates who are educated are 43 percent less likely to return to prison. Further, the employment rate for those released was 13 percent higher for those who received an education. 
There has been much discussion lately about the “skills gap,” or disconnect between available jobs and qualified workers. We cannot have a conversation about improving our country’s workforce without first talking about the long-term economic impact of low literacy. Individuals at the lowest literacy and numeracy levels have a higher rate of unemployment and lower wages than the national average. Low literacy costs the U.S. $225 billion or more each year in non-productivity in the workforce, crime, and loss of tax revenue due to unemployment.

High school dropout rates are staggering. Every year, one in three young adults—more than 1.2 million—drop out of high school. Recent data shows that nearly 30 percent of adults with household incomes at or below the federal poverty line do not have a high school credential. The key to financial success is a viable career path and adequate education to seek meaningful, family-supporting wages. The value to our economy in additional wages and the reduction in costs for various support programs is estimated at more than $200 billion a year.


To be successful in today’s digital world, literacy goes beyond being able to read and write. Digital literacy includes the ability to use technology such as computers, smartphones, and the Internet—and low-literate Americans are disproportionately finding themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. We are now not only looking at equity of access to technology, but also at how people are able to use that access. As a result we now are referring to the digital use divide, emphasizing how important it is for adults to know how to use digital access to find information, apply for jobs or driver’s licenses, bank online, access social networks, and protect their personal information. While national efforts to address affordable access to information technology and broadband are being achieved, efforts to improve e-skills are struggling to keep pace with demand. Learning basic skills is essential for all adults.