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Economic/Workforce Development--Value of an Education

Education, and the state responsibility for education, does not end when children become adults. Clearly, the bulk of interest and funding within education is devoted to the P-16 level. States, however, also provide education services for adults other than those in the pursuit of a postsecondary degree. It is this group adults without a high school diploma who often find themselves on the fringes of society working in low-paying jobs with little hope for advancement. To address the problems of this group, the U.S. Congress introduced and passed Title II of the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, addressing adult education and literacy.1 Under that act, and addressed similarly within the states, adult education is defined as:

"The term 'adult education' means services or instruction below the postsecondary level for individuals (A) who have attained 16 years of age, (B) who are not enrolled or required to be enrolled in secondary school under State law, and (C) who (1) lack sufficient mastery of basic educational skills to enable the individuals to function effectively in society, (2) do not have a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent, and have not achieved an equivalent level of education, or (3) are unable to speak, read, or write the English language." 2

Adult education, however, is not limited just to adult basic education or even state departments of education. Other typical programs that serve adult learners include General Educational Development (GED) test preparation, English education for speakers of foreign languages, high school completion, and some states even combine adult education services with Department of Human Services Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Also, adults are increasingly receiving work and job training both from governmental agencies and the private sector. In fact, some states, such as South Dakota and Tennessee, have reorganized adult education within the department of labor within the past few years, recognizing the importance job training plays in educating these undereducated adults.

This Issue Site seeks to acquaint readers with state-level adult education programs and provide links to research and organizations focusing on adult education. Undereducated adults are a large, vital yet often neglected sector of the population; this Issue Site hopes to increase awareness to keep these adults off the fringes of society.

1Workforce Investment Act of 1998, Pub. L. No. 105-220; Title II, Adult Education and Literacy codified at, 20 U.S.C. 9201 et. seq.

220 U.S.C. 9202(1).


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