- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 4, 2003

A D.C. education official yesterday criticized city officials' reallocation of funds that has left adult literacy programs in the city with less money.
K. Brisbane, the outgoing adult education director for the D.C. State Education Agency (SEA), said the city's funding of literacy programs through the Department of Human Services forced hard decisions when the District's $323 million budget deficit prompted spending cuts. DHS officials were forced to focus on their primary mission of providing for the needy, she said.
"[DHS officials] chose to cut, and what they cut was an ancillary function. So you end up with an agency that had to prioritize," said Ms. Brisbane, whose agency operates independently of the DHS programs.
City officials last month stopped funding literacy and basic adult education programs to save money. Since 2000, 16 community-based organizations have contracted with the D.C. Department of Human Services to help educate low-income residents.
During his second inaugural address Thursday, Mayor Anthony A. Williams pledged to find funds for a team of 20 literacy leaders, calling the city's 37 percent illiteracy rate "a human tragedy."
DHS spokeswoman Debra Daniels yesterday noted that her department's Office of Special Initiatives managed the Adult Basic Education Services program over the past three years.
Last year, 1,547 residents enrolled in the department's literacy programs, which had a $3.5 million budget. Fifty-eight persons received their high school equivalency degrees and 530 persons increased a grade level in reading comprehension.
"We have high hopes [of getting the programs up and running again]. The mayor is fully committed to the literacy programs. We're not giving up. We're looking for another way to do this, and we are seeking public and private sector funds," Ms. Daniels said.
Most adult literacy classes in the District are funded through the D.C. State Education Agency, which is part of the University of the District of Columbia. SEA, with a $3.5 million budget funded by the federal and city governments, provided money to 21 programs and services to about 3,700 adults throughout the city last year.
"The Adult Basic Education Grant from the U.S. Department of Education is administered by the SEA. And local dollars are also appropriated for the agency to provide adult literacy services for the entire District," said Ms. Brisbane, who served her final day with SEA yesterday after a four-year stint.
"The mayor chose to bypass the agency that had prepared a five-year plan in 1999 for comprehensive services in adult education and give $3.5 million to DHS, whose mandate is to provide assistance to families with low incomes," she said.
Ms. Brisbane said SEA has been better positioned to provide adult literacy programs than the Department of Humans Services, even in times of tight budgets.
"While the mayor cut $900,000 from the SEA's budget in fiscal 2001, the remaining funding has been steady and no program that we fund has had a cut in its budget," she said. "Now the mayor has to figure out a way to work with existing adult education providers and the SEA in a manner which supports what has been developed through the SEA over the last four years."

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