Local Adult School to Face $1.2 Million Cut in Funding

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To accommodate increased state budget cuts, Berkeley Unified School District will slash more than $1 million from Berkeley Adult School, its adult education program.

The cuts come in light of the February state budget revision, which made deep cuts to categorical funding.

Public adult education programs, which are entirely dependent on the funding, will suffer a 15 percent cut this year and an additional 4.5 percent cut next year in state funds, said Margaret Kirkpatrick, principal of the program.

The district will be forced to cut $1.2 million from the program in the next school year, she said. Program administrators working on next year's budget are considering different approaches to allocating where cuts will be made.

"We are trying to keep all our programs intact ... looking at class size and making sure our resources are going to those programs that are meeting the most student needs," she said.

Kirkpatrick said she was particularly distressed because the 20 percent reduction of the program's funds over such a short span of time was unprecedented.

The program already faces a $750,000 shortage this year, which the district's Board of Education voted Wednesday to offset with the program's reserve funds, Kirkpatrick said.

Though the program has yet to reach a final decision on its budget, she said it will likely take most of the needed funds from its reserve, which consisted of about $850,000 at the beginning of the year.

Kirkpatrick said the program has been working closely with the district and its teachers to find ways to lessen the impact on students.

According to Superintendent Bill Huyett, in May district board members will discuss potential program reductions and increased student fees in non-core programs.

Howard Goldberg, who takes the school's senior water aerobics class for free, said he has heard some talk of fee increases and the possibility of class eliminations.

"I think the classes are important and have to go on regardless because of the benefits from a physical, emotional and social sense," Goldberg said.

The board members have been outspoken about their disappointment with the state's cuts, Huyett said.

"They feel that public education is not being supported to the level it should be," he said.

According to district spokesperson Mark Coplan, the cuts were unfair because the program relies solely on state funding, while other educational programs in the district can also benefit from city funding. He cited Measure BB, a local tax that helps to improve the overall appearance of schools.

Community adult education should receive more funding, Coplan said, because it serves as a direct answer to stimulating the economy.

"Adult education is the basis of the working community that our local businesses count on," Coplan said. "We train their labor force and offer important opportunities for adults frightened of being laid off."


Contact Shannon Lee at [email protected]

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