Help increase federal government support for adult education and family literacy

Would you like to see the federal government increase its funding support for adult education and family literacy? If so, now is the time to speak up.

The Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H) of the Senate Appropriations Committee is currently working on funding allocations for this fiscal year. The Senators on the subcommittee need to know that the funding provided through the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA) is essential to the success of the adult education system, and that an increase in that funding is supported by the Senators’ constituents. Initial decisions on funding allocations will be made over the next two weeks, so your Senators need to hear from you right away. This is particularly important if you live in one of these states:
• Mississippi: Senator Cochran is the Chair of the Appropriations Committee
• Vermont: Senator Leahy is the Ranking Member on the Appropriations Committee
• Missouri: Senator Blunt is the Chair of the Labor-H Subcommittee
• Washington: Senator Murray is the Ranking Member on the Labor-H Subcommittee
• Any state whose Senator serves on the Labor-H subcommittee (see the list of members at
Eventually, though, the full Senate will vote on appropriations, so everyone in every state has an important role to play in promoting the importance of adult education and family literacy. You can find contact information for your Senators here:
Or you can use the online contact system provided by COABE at

In addition, Senators will be in their home states during the week of February 19, so you can contact them in their local offices.

Below my signature line are some talking points that you can use to help make the case for increased AEFLA funding. This language comes from a letter that I submitted to Senators Cochran, Leahy, Blunt, and Murray yesterday on behalf of the NCL; much of the content is drawn from resources provided by World Education, ProLiteracy, and individual NCL members. Feel free to use it as is or adapt it to fit your specific circumstances, and to forward this message to your colleagues and others.

Thank you in advance for your active advocacy for adult learners! I hope you’ll report back when you have contacted your Senators, and that you’ll share additional talking points.

Deborah Kennedy
Senior Consultant / Owner, Key Words
President, National Coalition for Literacy

Literacy and Social Justice, 50 Years On

The sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis took place 50 years ago, but the literacy issues at its heart are still with us, as Courtland Milloy of the Washington Post points out.
[The Memphis sanitation strike was a fight for better pay and working conditions. Now workers need to fight for better training, 1 February 2018]

In 1968, sanitation work was one of the few options available to those with limited literacy skills. Milloy describes Alvin Turner, who paid for his three children’s college educations on a sanitation worker’s income. Turner himself “didn’t have a lot of opportunities for formal education,” Milloy writes. “He had to take a job with low pay and high risk.”

Yet even the limited opportunities that were available to Turner have become scarce 50 years later. Milloy quotes Cleophus Smith, a Memphis sanitation worker since the 1960s.

“Years and years ago,” Smith recalled, “I told a co-worker, ‘Look, the day is going to come when we are going to have to know how to read and write because if we don’t we are not going to be able to hold a position on these garbage trucks.’ ” And sure enough, Smith said, “We had to take a skill test a few weeks ago, six to nine sheets of questions you had to read and answer. The next thing I know, these young guys are whispering to me: ‘Doc, can you help me? What’s the answer to this one?’ I don’t blame them for not being able to read. Nobody taught them.”

“To operate equipment on virtually any job today means being able to read directions,” Milloy writes. “Too many adults still have not acquired that basic skill. …If federal officials ever make good on their pledge to spend billions if not a trillion dollars to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, local officials need to be ready.”

“Tough as the fight for social and economic justice may be, it’s a whole lot harder if you’re illiterate.”

The Adult Literacy Caucus Is Growing

Thanks to the efforts of our dedicated adult education advocates in Pennsylvania, Congressman Ryan Costello (R-PA-06) has joined the House Adult Literacy Caucus. Welcome, Representative Costello!

For more information on the Adult Literacy Caucus, visit the Caucus page on the NCL website at
If your Representative is not listed there, contact her/his staff today to promote participation in this important way of supporting adult literacy and adult education.


We are delighted to announce that Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) has joined the House Adult Literacy Caucus. This is the direct result of interactions by NCL members with the Congresswoman and members of her staff. Welcome, Congresswoman!

For more information on the Adult Literacy Caucus, visit the NCL website at
If your Representative is not listed there, contact her/his staff today to promote participation in this important way of supporting adult literacy and adult education.