Education Dep't Strategy Is to Educate Adult Non-Citizens

By Susan Jones | September 23, 2013 | 11:08 AM EDT

Adult learners in Omaha, Nebraska. (AP File Photo)

( - The U.S. Education Department, anticipating an influx of foreigners in the years ahead under immigration reform, says it plans to create an "adult learning infrastructure" to meet demand for "high-quality English language" skills and other basics.

On page 10 of its draft strategic plan for Fiscal Years 2014-2018, the Education Department says it will work to "transform" the adult education system -- "and create an adult learning infrastructure that better meets the demand for high-quality English language, literacy, numeracy, and problem-solving skills. This infrastructure must accommodate the increased demand for skills from industry and business, as well as for services that may result from comprehensive immigration reform."

The word "immigration" appears only on page 10 of the 42-page report, which mainly focuses on improving the administration's "cradle-to-career education strategy."

In the paragraph dealing with adult education, the department says it is concerned about the number of adults who lack "foundational" literacy and numerical skills:

"Because of this, too many adults cannot enter or complete a post-secondary education or training program," the report says. "Data on educational attainment and skills show that there are at least 30 million Americans without basic literacy skills in need of educational credentials for work. The social and economic consequences are severe for these adults and their families, as well as for their communities, where large numbers of low-skilled adults can limit economic development. The current adult education system is not equipped to handle this challenge, serving less than 3 percent of the need."

The draft strategic plan, released last week, does not say how the Education Department will "transform" the adult learning infrastructure, but it does say that post-secondary institutions "must increase their capacity to serve the growing number of Americans who require education and/or training beyond high school to compete in the workplace, particularly the tens of millions of Americans who have basic literacy and workforce training needs."

A 2012 report --"Improving Adult Literacy Instruction" -- says major employers, existing training and education organizations, faith-based groups, and other community groups should be enlisted to help in the effort.

The Education Department's Division of Adult Education and Literacy provides funds to states for adult education and literacy programs. The amount each state receives is based on a formula established by Congress.

In Fiscal Year 2013, the division allocated $553,990,840 to the states for adult education programs and English literacy/civics education for immigrants. The states, in turn, distribute the taxpayer money to local entities to provide adult education and literacy services.

The Education Department is inviting public comment on its draft FY2014-2018 Strategic Plan at until Oct. 4.

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