February always has us watching the state budget process. While we’ve been spreading the word about the Baltimore Education Coalition‘s campaign to prevent cuts to public education funding, you might not know that the Governor’s budget affects our Adult Literacy & ESOL Program as well.
Recently we caught up with Adult Literacy & ESOL Program Director Todd Elliott to talk to him about his work at GHCC and on the state level as an advocate for adult education. Todd has worked at GHCC for the past 10 years, and in addition to his efforts here he serves as President of the Board of Directors for the Maryland Association for Adult, Community and Continuing Education (a volunteer role).
What is MAACCE, and what is your current role? How long have you been involved with the organization?
MAACCE is the Maryland Association for Adult, Community and Continuing Education, a statewide professional group that supports adult educators and adult education advocates. Our mission is to provide leadership for those interested in advancing education as a lifelong process, touching adult learning in literacy, GED, family literacy, ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages), and correctional education. This has traditionally included professional development (primarily through an annual conference) and advocacy.
I’ve been a member of MAACCE since I started teaching adult education in 1997, and I joined the Board of Directors in 2007. In July 2009 I became President of the Board of Directors, and I’m currently serving a second term.
Playing this role at a state level isn’t in your job description, but it’s clearly related. What makes it so important to you, even at times when you’re swamped with work at the Program?
We frequently get very focused on our day-to-day operations, managing individual programs. It’s the syndrome of always putting out fires. Yet there’s a bigger picture to what we do, and I’ve appreciated being part of making a wider impact. We have a relatively small program at GHCC, so it doesn’t always feel like a significant dent in the need in Maryland. The work MAACCE does touches so many more teachers—and subsequently adult learners—than I could possibly do daily in north Baltimore. And ultimately GHCC benefits from those efforts, particularly through the professional development opportunities afforded by MAACCE and our general advocacy efforts to sustain support.
Tell us about the advocacy work MAACCE is doing now. What’s at stake this year?
Just about every year—and even more so recently—budgetary concerns have us on the edge of our seats. Very few things are safe in Annapolis, so we pay attention to what Governor O’Malley and his cabinet are doing. We spend time communicating our learners’ successes and needs to our elected officials. The more we can focus their attention on the power of adult education—and how their decisions impact the lives of so many Marylanders—the more likely it is that we can sustain funding.
It does not appear there will be great stressors on adult education funding in 2011, and we thank Governor O’Malley and the House and Senate leadership for their continued support of our efforts. It has been very clear over the past few years that the Governor continues to value the connections between getting people better skills through our educational efforts and being effective citizens and strong workers.
We also have to pay attention at the federal level—our primary funding there is through the 1998 Adult Education & Family Literacy Act, tied to the Workforce Investment Act. This federal legislation hasn’t been on the block for a dozen years, and while it’s been suggested that it would be up for review numerous times, Congress always puts it on the back burner. The chance of it gaining some momentum with the newly elected House, though, remains to be seen. At this point we’re more concerned about President Obama’s proposed domestic spending freeze!
What’s the one thing you want the average person to hear about these issues? Why should we get involved, even if it’s just to send a postcard to our congressperson?
Adult education, especially ESOL in other parts of Maryland, has a huge impact on our everyday lives. Helping more people become better educated opens their eyes to a broader world, prepares them to be stronger citizens and community members, and better prepares them for the work world.
All of these elements contribute to strengthening our communities, yet there’s too much to do. Current programs don’t have enough support to reach all those in need. To reduce current wait lists and really make an impact on our neighborhoods we need a significant influx of funds, preferably with a balance of federal, state and local support—something that currently does not currently exist in many of our jurisdictions.
How can someone reading this get involved if they want to make a difference?
While MAACCE is professional association for those working in adult education, I would encourage people to contact a local program—like GHCC’s Adult Literacy Program!—and volunteer or donate. Most programs around the state also rely on a myriad of partners, so if there’s someone out there who knows of a program that could lend support we can put them in touch. We could also use help contacting local and state officials and encourage them to support our efforts.