June 25, 2020 – Savannah’s Sen. Lester Jackson is to be commended for initiating the creation of a Senate Study Committee to look at the issue of educating adults who for a variety of reasons have not attained a high school diploma or a general educational development (GED).  Today, Senate Resolution 1035 creating the "Senate Educating Adult Students Study Committee" passed. 

In addressing poverty in Savannah and across Georgia, adult education is an important step to help break generational poverty and reduce crime.  We need to face the fact that we have multiple generations of adults who were passed through the public school system and then were allowed to drop out of high school at 16 in our state, and are functionally illiterate.  That illiteracy affects their earning power and their quality of life for decades to come. 

According to Sen. Jackson, he estimates that as high as 60% of those he sees incarcerated in the Chatham County Jail, for example, can not read sufficiently.  

A parent can not provide all that is important in early childhood education for the children they love if they can not read - can not read to them at an early age, and can not read the information that comes home from school or their local government.   

All of the data speaks to the fact that many low income children are lacking as many as one million words versus their peers when they enter school, a lack of early education that results in a heavy lift to catch up. It is well documented that if a child is not reading at grade level by the third grade, they seldom catch up. 

The lack of reading and math skills results in many young adults, and even older adults, who cannot complete a technical college program or certification training, all of which are employment realities that doom them to lower-paying jobs for the rest of their lives.  

We all know people in our community who do not have a bank account, who do not vote because they can not read, and who find “the system” intimidating.  It's past time to tell truth, and work on this important issue. 

This is not a problem particular to Georgia, but there are other cities and states that approach the needs for adult education with more progressive solutions.    

How amazing would it be to have neighborhood-based evening programs using our local schools where adults could attend to improve their reading, math and computer skills?   How wonderful would it be to see our city and school system work together on such an approach? 

Goodwill of Coastal Georgia is working on an adult education program that will be run at their facility on Sally Mood Drive, which is a great step forward for our community. 

Sen. Jackson’s resolution, which passed the Senate today, will lift this issue to the state level, with the hope of educating our Georgia legislators about this great need to both improve the lives of the citizens of Georgia, as well as to insure an expanded workforce.

The language of Sen. Jackson’s resolution points out that “there are unmet employment opportunities in Georgia for adults who are 21 years of age or older and who not have attained a high school diploma or a GED diploma; that meeting the demand for qualified individuals to engage in such employment opportunities is a critical workforce development issue; and that the state has an obligation to tailor its education system to help meet this demand to prevent the stifling of economic growth.

The study committee will evaluate methods and manners of expanding opportunities for adults in Georgia who are 21 years of age or older to complete their secondary education and attain a high school diploma or a GED diploma;  ascertain the number of adults in Georgia who are 21 years of age or older and who have not attained a high school diploma or GED diploma but would like the opportunity to attain a diploma; to look at types and models of programs needed for adults in Georgia who are 21 years of age or older to attain a high school diploma or GED diploma; to determine whether changes to elementary and secondary school curricula and policies should be recommended to the State Board of Education to support workforce development by providing for adults in Georgia who are 21 years of age or older to attain a high school diploma or GED diploma; to study whether changes to curricula and policies should be recommended for the Technical College System of Georgia; to look at whether changes to policies should be recommended for the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia; and whether any related budget recommendations should be made.

The goals of Senate Resolution 1035 are great, with a lot to study.  But it’s an outstanding start.

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