Amid growing demand, adult education funding scrutinized in FY 2024 budget

By Dave Fidlin | The Center Square

A Vermont legislative panel on Thursday discussed a component of education funding that has increased demand yet has been undergoing budget cuts in recent years.

The state’s adult education and literacy fund is a small fraction of the state’s broader education budget that fortifies K-12 schools and traditional colleges and universities.

The fund was one of several education-related line items the House Committee on Education delved into during Thursday’s afternoon session, as the latest markup of House Bill 494 was under the microscope.

HB 494, otherwise known as an act relating to making appropriations for the support of the government, is in response to Gov. Phil Scott’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal. In January, Scott outlined his $8.37 billion spending plan, which includes $2.1 billion toward education.

Scott’s fiscal year 2024 budget proposal includes a $4.41 million contribution into the adult education and literacy fund. At one time, the line item was as high as $8 million, but over time has been whittled down as federal resources have diminished and other factors have come into play.

Since Scott’s budget proposal was unveiled, the House of Representatives has proposed an additional $1.5 million infusion into the fund through a workforce and economic development bill.

But the Senate subsequently removed that earmark in its markup of the bill, citing a desire for more information, leaving the proposal in limbo.

State Rep. Marc Mihaly, D-Montpelier, honed in on the adult education and literacy fund as concerns of inadequate resources have been raised.

“The demand for their services has only grown because not only does it include people who want to get a high school equivalency … but they also have seen a huge rise in immigrants from Ukraine and Afghanistan who want English training,” Mihaly said.

In his discussion with his House Committee on Education counterparts, Mihaly said state officials might have to rethink their priorities to ensure the adult education and literacy fund has the resources it needs.

“Here we are, spending all of this money – I think, for good reason personally – on the state colleges and CCV (Community College of Vermont),” Mihaly said. “(The adult education and literacy fund) is the program that could get people to where they need to go in the state colleges and CCV.”

State Rep. Peter Conlon, D-Cornwall, said he would draft a memo encapsulating the panel’s collective position on spending priorities on the adult education and literacy fund and other specific spending-related matters within the education budget.

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