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Year in Review 2021

Year in Review 2021

As the new year begins, the NCL Board is looking back over the successes of 2021 and considering how to build on them for the important advocacy and awareness work that lies ahead. Here are some highlights of our advocacy initiatives from the past year.

Accomplishments in 2021

Hill Briefing

In April, NCL partnered with VALUEUSA and ProLiteracy to provide a virtual Hill briefing entitled Literacy to Leadership: Policies That Promote Adult Student Success. Introductory remarks were provided by Senator Jack Reed (D-RI); Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA-03), Chairman, Committee on Education and Labor; and Congressman John Yarmuth (D-KY-03), Co-Chair, House Adult Literacy Caucus. The briefing speakers, including Kim Ford (CEO, Martha’s Table), Rachel DeVaughan (Deputy Executive Director, Mississippi Community College Board), Carlos Vasquez (Adult Education Instructor, Catholic Charities NM), and HollyAnn Fresa-Moore (Principal, Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School), stressed the many ways that policy decisions can make a transformative difference in the lives of adult learners. The briefing elicited a lively chat exchange among the 200+ attendees; a video recording is available at https://youtu.be/L-jBquG17VI.

Senate HELP Committee and WIOA Reauthorization

In April, NCL submitted a memo to Chair Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ranking Member Richard Burr (R-NC) in response to the HELP Committee’s request for comments on workforce development and WIOA programs. NCL’s memo contained six recommendations:

  • Recognize the centrality of adult basic education to the success of workforce training and economic recovery efforts
  • Recognize that full and effective participation in the workforce requires the application of broader life skills
  • Amend deficit-based language that leads to deficit-based programming
  • Reorient adult basic education accountability and outcomes reporting toward a competency-based approach
  • Provide support for remote instruction models and the use of technology in adult education
  • Invest in research on evidence-based AEFLA program models

In providing these recommendations, NCL noted that they were designed to “improve the legislation so that it more fully realizes its essential purpose of ensuring equitable access to quality education and training for all adults.” NCL has continued to promote these recommendations throughout 2021 in its work with Senator Reed’s office on revised language for the WIOA legislation.

Digital Equity Act

In June, NCL endorsed the bipartisan Digital Equity Act of 2021, which was introduced by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rob Portman (R-OH). The Act, which provides for a five-year federal investment in digital equity, was passed as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was enacted by the 117th Congress and signed into law by the President on November 15. NCL had previously endorsed the Act in 2020 and has worked actively in support of its passage since then.

OCTAE and Department of Education Interactions

NCL participated in a series of invitation-only information-gathering sessions with OCTAE staff throughout the year. These sessions allowed NCL and other participants to update OCTAE on developments and activities in the field; the final session of the year was a face-to-face one-on-one meeting with Under Secretary of Education James Kvaal.

National Reporting System

In November 2020, NCL submitted comments on proposed changes to the National Reporting System. Our comments, which stressed the need to allow adult education programs to report outcomes for all learners across all types of measurable skill gains, aligned with those expressed by a number of our colleague organizations. OCTAE responded positively to these concerns, and in early 2021 issued a program memo providing revised guidance on outcome reporting in the pandemic environment.

Naturalization Civics Test

In December 2020, NCL submitted a letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to express concerns about the development process, administration procedures, and preparation requirements for the revised naturalization civics test that USCIS released in November 2020. Similar concerns were expressed by many of our colleague organizations. USCIS responded positively, and in early 2021 announced that it would continue to use the prior version of the civics test.

Civil Rights

Throughout the year, NCL continued its collaboration with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights as the Hub for adult education, addressing concerns related to finalization of data from the 2020 Decennial Census and signing on to several other civil rights and human rights related communications throughout the year.

Conference Presentations

NCL Board members provided advocacy-related presentations at major conferences throughout the year, including the annual conventions of TESOL International, COABE, AAACE, and the National Literacy Summit hosted by the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy in October.

Adult Education and Family Literacy Week

NCL’s 2021 National AEFL Week activities in September focused on the foundational role of adult education in solutions to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting recession and unemployment. In 2022, National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week will be observed from September 18 to September 24.

Organizational Growth

NCL completed its first full year with an Executive Director supporting the Board in its leadership role.

Plans for 2022

Every year, NCL actively pursues opportunities to promote adult education in policy-related matters. In 2022, we will

  • Improve adult education’s visibility and messaging as a key influencer to ensure our purpose and contributions to the U.S. education system are understood by policy makers, stakeholders, and the field
  • Increase awareness of the role adult education plays in digital equity, inclusive economic recovery, counteracting systemic racism, and social justice
  • Promote broadening of the options for accountability in adult education
  • Continue to work on organizational sustainability by increasing NCL’s membership base and securing external funding for our work

As always, we will conduct national public policy advocacy with Congress and keep our members connected with developments on Capitol Hill. NCL member organizations and individual friends will have opportunities to be involved in the national conversation on public policy through NCL’s semi-annual meetings, monthly public policy calls, conference panel discussions, and task groups.

Census 2020: Your Senator Needs to Hear from You

Census 2020: Your Senator Needs to Hear from You

The Census Bureau has announced that it will terminate data collection at the end of September, rather than at the end of October as previously announced.

This change increases the likelihood that the 37 percent of residents who have not yet responded to the 2020 Census will not be counted. Those who have not yet responded are members of hard-to-count populations: rural residents, persons with low or no income, members of ethnic and racial minorities, persons with limited proficiency in English, and persons with low levels of educational attainment.

To be sure our adult learners and their families and communities are counted, we need Census 2020 data collection to continue through October 31.

The House-passed COVID-19 bill (the HEROES Act) provided for the October 31 deadline, but this extension is missing from the Senate’s COVID-19 bill. We must ensure that the COVID relief package, under discussion this week, includes language that will extend the 2020 Census deadline to ensure an accurate count.

What you can do:

  1. Encourage your adult learners to complete the Census right away themselves and to promote Census completion in their communities, online (my2020census.gov), by phone (1-844-330-2020), or on paper. It’s the best way to ensure support, accountability, and political representation for the community and its members.
  2. Call your Senators this week, while they are debating the Senate COVID-19 relief bill.

The Census Counts campaign has set up a toll-free patch-through line at 1-888-374-4269. When you call, you’ll be asked to provide your zip code. You’ll hear a pre-recording with details on what to say, and then be patched through to your Senator’s office.

Here’s a script for what to say to the staffer who takes your call:

Hi, my name is _______ and I am your constituent from (City and State). I am calling to ask the Senator NOT to cut the 2020 Census short and to extend the reporting deadline so the Census Bureau has the time it needs to count everyone. A rushed census results in an inaccurate representation of the country. Thank you for your time. 

You can also ask the Senator to sign on to Senator Schatz’ bipartisan letter to leadership asking for the deadline extensions in the next coronavirus package. Senators who wish to sign on should contact Trelaine Ito in Senator Schatz’s office, trlaine_ito@schatz.senate.gov.

3. Share this information and encourage others to contact their Senators too. Census Counts is particularly interested in outreach to these four Senators:

  • Senator Richard Shelby in Alabama
  • Senator Dan Sullivan in Alaska
  • Senator Martha McSally in Arizona
  • Senator Susan Collins in Maine

However, everyone is encouraged to participate in this effort – every Senator is important, and every constituent voice counts!

Thank you for all you do to provide and promote opportunities, resources, and representation for our adult learners and their communities.

How does the Census affect health care for adult learners?

How does the Census affect health care for adult learners?

By Cynthia Macleay Campbell, Ed.D.

Why should adult learners complete the Census? Because their health may depend on it!

People who work with adult learners are all too aware of the health challenges that adult learners face. Typical examples include the need for

  • Health screenings and preventive care
  • Eyeglasses
  • Diabetes medication and education
  • Addiction treatment
  • Mental health care
  • Dental care
  • Help with quitting smoking or fighting obesity

These and other health challenges often affect adult learners’ ability to attend and persist in education programs – and research has shown that persistence for 100 hours or more is the key to the achievement of educational and career goals such as high school completion and upskilling. Adult learners could benefit from Nucific discounts or other similar coupon codes in order to boost their general health and productivity.

Adult learners are also among the people with the most difficulty in accessing health care and health information. For instance, others might find it easy to order a prescription medicine from Blink Health (see this page for more info) or similar online pharmacies, an adult learner may not have the same aptitude for it. Besides technical accessibility, they may encounter practitioners who are not sensitive to their culture or able to speak their language. In short, they are on the wrong side of the health disparities in the United States, where certain groups have worse health outcomes than others.

The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) funds multiple public health programs that bridge these disparities. They include

  • Grants to help people from minority groups and disadvantaged communities train to be health workers in their communities. This helps increase the numbers of practitioners who can relate to patients in culturally appropriate ways.
  • Medicaid and Medicare.
  • Block grants for Community Mental Health Services
  • Block Grants for the Prevention and Treatment of Substance Abuse
  • Health Center Programs (Community Health Centers, Migrant Health Centers, Health Care for the Homeless, and Public Housing Primary Care)
  • Telehealth services, where people can call in for health information.
  • Training in General, Pediatric, and Public Health Dentistry
  • Development and Coordination of Rural Health Services

What does the Census have to do with these health equity and public health efforts? The funding that comes to each local community to support them is determined by the Census count for that community. Without an accurate count, adult learners may have further struggles to obtain the health services and supports they need to flourish.

For further reading:

Census 2020 Schedule Changes Due to COVID-19

Census 2020 Schedule Changes Due to COVID-19

On Friday March 20, the Census Bureau announced adjustments to the operations schedule for collecting 2020 Census responses. Here are several that are important for adult learners and their communities.

The best approach for everyone is to complete the Census as soon as possible, either online, on the phone, or by mail. People who have not received a Census ID number in the mail can complete the form online using their home address.

  • Self-response phase: The end date for self-response is extended to August 14. The original end date was July 31.
  • Update Leave: This refers to 5 million households where Census workers will drop off paper invitations at the front door. This was scheduled to begin on March 15. It has been delayed and will now take place March 29-May 1.
  • Mobile Questionnaire Assistance: In this activity, Census workers with tablets will be stationed in public places (grocery stores, community centers) to help people complete the Census. This activity was originally scheduled for March 30 – July 31. It will now take place April 13 – August 14.
  • Non-response Followup: These in-person visits to households that have not responded online, by phone, or by mail were originally scheduled for May 13 – July 31. The new dates are May 28 – August 14.

Group quarters enumeration, service-based numeration, and the count of people experiencing homelessness outdoors have also been delayed. Read the Census Bureau’s revised schedule for more information.

The Census Task Force of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights has expressed support for these schedule adjustments, noting that “this extension gives the Census Bureau and advocates the flexibility we need to expand and modify outreach.” The National Coalition for Literacy is a Census Task Force partner. Read the Task Force’s full statement.

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