Saturday, 6 of February of 2016

Si se puede! Organizing Our Community in Adult Education

—A guest blog article in the discussion series on Cut the Excuses, Not Education! How Is Fighting the Proposal to Eliminate Adult Education in L.A.

By Blanca Perez, President, & Evelyn Escalante, Vice President, United Adult Students

Evelyn Escalante, UAS President at a Recent United Adult Students Meeting. (Photo by Y. Acosta)

In our experience as president and vice president of United Adult Students, we have had the privilege to organize our community in which approximately 350,000 students would be impacted if the proposed elimination of adult education by the LAUSD Board of Education were to take place.  Adult Education accounts for 37% of LAUSD’s total enrollment, while only using 2% of the school district’s overall budget.

What we’re asking the Los Angeles Unified School District for is a second chance to learn English and have better professional development.  We want to have better jobs, better communication as parents, and be able to better participate in the schools of our children, as well as in our communities, as we contribute to the economy of this country.

We are the 3rd largest school district in the country, and it is sad that the Los Angeles Unified School District does not have leadership in our community to save the education of adults.

Our experience in organizing students has been a little difficult because many have been afraid to speak out. But we are also seeing students with great leadership from different schools in helping us organize schools across the city.

Two years ago, the LAUSD school board threatened to close several adult schools that were in leased buildings. We pushed back by organizing, United Adult Students was born, and we were successful in keeping our schools open.  This has given us inspiration as we now fight to now save the entire adult education system in LAUSD.

[In this video, Jose Lara interviews Blanca Perez as a part of his JoseLaraVideo Blog Series. Blanca Perez organized with Menlo Adult School students and other school sites and successfully kept leased sites open:]

After sending out teams of student leaders to many of the adult schools in an effort to educate our students on what has been happening and to encourage them to attend our upcoming protests, we had a very fantastic rally on February 9.  Thousands of students raised their voices in opposition to closing the adult education program.

The day of our second large citywide rally, on February 14, we succeeded in getting the LAUSD Board of Education to postpone making any decisions on the budget of the adult education program.  Many had expected that the Board Members were going to vote to eliminate adult education, but because of the tremendous pressure we had created, the Board instructed the Superintendent John Deasy to go back and look for alternative plans that did not include the elimination of Adult Education. It was an incredible achievement!

We have taken our story to the media, and provided countless interviews on the radio, TV, newspapers and blogs.  The radio station W Radio 690 AM, which broadcasts in Spanish to an area covering all of Southern California and Tijuana, Mexico, has been particularly supportive, inviting groups of our students every Tuesday at 9pm to discuss the importance of adult education, and educate our communities on the issues.

Juan Ramirez, UTLA Elementary Vice President, is also co-host of the radio program, and we are thankful for his support.  Juan came to this country without speaking any English, and later actually became an adult education teacher for 10 years, so he knows the value of the adult education programs. [Sample broadcast]

As United Adult Students, we have led delegations of student representatives from all the adult schools to meet with elected officials and their staff at all levels of government, including the school board, city council, LA County, California Assembly and Senate, and U.S. Congress.

Prior to each meeting, they visit schools in teams requesting adult students to write letters to their particular official.

350 letters are delivered to Congressman Xavier Becerra's staff to kick off a meeting with a delegation of adult students from his district.

Meeting with Congressman Xavier Becerra’s staff is a recent example of the many delegations of constituent adult student reps that Blanca and Evelyn organized.

We have obtained support from US Congresspeople, Assemblypeople, Senators and City Councilpeople who have written letters to the school board and advocated for adult education at the school board meetings and through phone calls to board members.

Other politicians have said they support us when we met with them, but just saying so is not the same as providing the leadership in taking necessary action.  Adult students vote, and among adults that can’t yet, many soon will become citizens. Clearly, we will be voting for those politicians who have supported adult education.

The author Diego Luis Cordoba said something very powerful that is very relevant to our struggle:

Por la ignorancia se desciende a la servidumbre, por la educación se asciende a la libertad.

Ignorance leads downwards to slavery, but Education leads upwards to freedom.

We will not allow anyone to kill our hopes for a better future for our families. We will continue mobilizing our communities and fighting to achieve our objectives.

Si se puede! Yes we can!

Blanca Perez, President, & Evelyn Escalante, Vice President, United Adult Students

Blanca and Evelyn are key organizers in developing a citywide organization of student leadership that is educating the community on the issues, collecting grassroots petition signatures, and organizing local and citywide rallies with unprecedented numbers of adult students and concerned community members.  They have also led numerous delegations of constituent student groups to meet with elected officials at all levels of government, local, state and federal.

They are guest bloggers in the discussion series “Cut the Excuses, Not Education! How Is Fighting the Proposal to Eliminate Adult Education in L.A.” See the full discussion schedule online. Participate by posting your comments and questions in the box below and signing’s petition.


Get Involved in Advocating and Organizing for Adult Education Nationally.

Join the National Coalition for Literacy. Sign up today for our free e-newsletter. Get email alerts on how you can impact adult education issues at the federal level. Or sign up to get text alerts sent directly to your phone.

Save the Date for these Webinars. Sean Abajian will be a panelist in Advocacy Strategies for Challenging Times:

  • Using Social Media for Grassroots Advocacy:  March 21, 2012, 2:00 pm ET
  • Advocacy Strategies for Challenging Times: Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 4:00 pm ET

Going to COABE? Join us at these sessions.

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