By Elia Arenas

I grew up hard-working, and started at the age of 15 to supplement my family’s income when my father became very ill and required surgery. I stopped going to school to sustain our family, and would go on to work at the same job for 37 years.

After being terminated from the job in 2008 because the business was closing, I did not know what to do. Without a high school degree I could not apply for jobs. I learned of the opportunity to gain my General Education Development (GED) and registered. I will graduate soon, that is, unless Illinois legislators cut the program before I have the opportunity to finish.

Due to our state’s budget crisis, adult education programs are facing severe cuts to their budget. Most programs will have to close down completely so people looking to attain their GED, participate in career preparation, or take English-as-a-Second-Language lessons are in a tough situation. Adult education classes are the only opportunity for adult learners who did not attain a U.S. education as a youth, to get back on track and advance.

People attending adult education classes work hard to keep up with the lessons and fortify lifelong skills for their professional development. Most are motivated by the desire to gain different employment with more responsibilities and higher wages. GED programs allow people to get out of poverty and support their families. According to Women Employed, 1.8 million people in Illinois do not have a high school diploma and need adult education programs.

These services provide the social environment that encourages learning and facilitates improvement. Many adult candidates left school and are returning decades later. Staff provide nurturing guidance where needed and motivate students to be dedicated to their goals and strive to succeed.

As more Illinois residents participate in educational opportunities, we create role models within families that contribute to communities. Motivating others to seek an education and promoting its attainability encourages more Illinoisans to complete their education.

Our economic conditions forced many people, including myself, to start anew and build new skills for a job search. As there are significant amounts of workers retraining in skills to change jobs and put their best foot forward in their career changes, Illinois must not limit these opportunities.

If Illinois is to remain a desirable state for business creation, we must maintain a workforce that is prepared and trained. If we do not have the human capital required, no businesses can be created or expanded and our economic slump will continue. Legislators cannot ignore the total loss involved in cutting adult education programs; diminished human capital in the future and the current loss of matching federal dollars intended to generate more educated workers.

Illinois is harmed additionally because low-income workers are rarely allowed to progress and earn higher wages. This reduces the capacity of the state to generate more revenue in the form of income and sales taxes. As people earn more, they could afford to pay a little more in income taxes. With earning a higher income, people also consume more goods and generate more sales taxes. Through short-sighted planning, legislators will lose out on opportunities to improve our state if these budget cuts remain.

On the one hand, we expect residents of Illinois, especially immigrants, to be productive citizens. But on the other hand, we are about to eliminate almost every resource available to people who are ready, willing, and able to better themselves.

The long-term economic and social impact of cuts to adult learning will reverberate for generations. Illinois must act quickly, and raise the revenue necessary to invest in our families.
Arenas is a community activist and a student at Malcolm X College in Chicago.
Copyright (C) 2009 by the Illinois Editorial Forum. 7/09


Unknown said...

This is very interesting...
Everyone should read this..
Thanks for sharing your view..

Payday loans Today