A Flaw in the Federal Adult Education Funding Formula: Academic Gains and English Language Learners
Judd, Amy Elizabeth
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Existing research in the field of adult basic education diverges between transformative learning theory, which focuses on how student growth is accomplished in the classroom, and human capital theory, where adult education is viewed as an investment in a strong economy. US adult education programs are funded by federal legislation intended to create a strong workforce. Grant-funded programs are charged with serving adults deficient in the basic skills of literacy and numeracy or lacking a high school diploma, as well as adults who are limited in English language proficiency. Yet, the federal funding formula for state-level allocations has been historically based on Census calculations of adults lacking a high school diploma, and ignores those who do not speak English well, despite the expectation for grant-funded programs to serve both populations. In states serving large numbers of adults with limited English proficiency, programs struggle to meet performance requirements for student educational gain. The findings in this paper indicate that a better-aligned funding formula could more equitably distribute adult academic gains in each state, a matter of importance as US policymakers struggle to find common ground on issues of immigration, diversity, and upskilling the American workforce.