Iowa is one of just three states that do not spend any state tax dollars on adult education and adult literacy programs.
Suku Radia — the president and CEO of Bankers Trust — says nearly 23 percent of Iowa working families don’t earn enough to meet basic needs and many of those parents can’t get better-paying jobs because they lack the proper skills.
“Nearly 290,000 working-age Iowans do not have a high school diploma or the equivalent,” Radia says, “and the lifetime loss of earnings for a high school drop-out is almosty$650,000.”
On Monday afternoon Radia urged members of the Iowa Senate Education Committee to set aside state tax dollars for adult education programs.
Mialisa Wright is a counselor at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, helping adult ed students overcome obstacles that would keep them out of class — like finding a baby sitter or a ride to class.
“It’s really hard to see that the types of lives that they live (are) normal for them, but for us would be chaos,” Wright said, “and they deal with it on a daily basis and they don’t have a support system.”
This Kirkwood College program is financed by the United Way.
High-school drop-out Brandi Martin of Des Moines got her GED from Des Moines Area Community College. Martin told legislators she benefitted from D-MACC counselors who guided her through the process.
“It was really helpful and nice because when you’re doing something like that — trying to change your career and your life — it’s difficult. You can’t just do it overnight,” Martin said. “You can’t just wake up and say: ‘I want to be somebody new today.'”
Martin is studying to become a dental hygienist.
Governor Branstad did not recommend providing any state money for adult education programs in the budget outline he presented lawmakers in January. An Iowa Department of Education administrator told legislators “there are a lot of different requests” that are a higher priority for the agency, but “it’s up to the legislature to decide” if the state should begin providing money for adult ed courses.