By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
The 74 students who start classes today at Carver Educational Center are lucky to have a classroom to walk into at all.
The Enid-based adult education and English as a Second Language program took a stinging $71,000 budget hit when Oklahoma Department of Education allotted $0 as the required state match to federal funding for adult education programs. That leaves $83,000 in federal money for the Enid program.
Director Clayton Nolen said the cuts took him and other program directors by complete surprise when the state board passed its budget. Before that, they were anticipating cuts, but not as severe as this one.
“We became very concerned as to how we were going to run our program,” Nolen said.
The Enid program serves between 300 and 320 students per year. Nolen wants to keep the program going for as many students as possible, but the question of how to do that had to be answered with some painful decisions.
At Alva, where a satellite adult education program operated for years, there now is no classroom. Both teachers at Alva were eliminated — one of the cuts that had to be made.
Also eliminated was a full-time teacher at Enid. Luckily, that teacher was able to get a job at Enid High School. The daytime ESL class that served 71 students last year is also history.
“Then I go to my evening program,” Nolen said.
Two teachers in the evening program resigned and were replaced with hourly teachers.
“I can provide only one ESL class in the evening,” Nolen said.
Last year, there were two evening ESL programs.
Nolen said open, walk-in enrollment at any time during the program no longer is permitted. Students who did not pre-enroll by last week cannot begin classes until the next session. There will be no extra books for them to use, and enrolled students who fail to show up today also will have to wait for a later session.
“The quantity of people we need to serve our students will not be there, but we are going to have a program,” Nolen said.
He said the scenario of zero state funding leaves questions about whether federal funding will be available at all for the next school year. Federal funding is contingent upon state funding, and it’s not yet known whether the federal government will fund adult education after the state pulled the rug out from under it.
Damon Gardenhire, spokesman for State Superintendent Janet Barresi, was contacted Friday afternoon and did not immediately know whether federal funding will continue in the absence of matching funds from the state.
Nolen said students served by the program include high school dropouts and adults who have diplomas but are struggling in college and need refresher courses on the high school level. It serves people who have been hired to work but must get their diploma to keep their jobs. The program works closely with Autry Technology Center, Department of Human Services, Workforce and the Department of Corrections.
“What disturbs me is we cannot provide the service for the number of people that I feel need it,” Nolen said.