Friday, April 4, 2008

Adult education faces cutbacks under mayor's budget proposal

By MICHAEL CASS • Staff Writer (Tennessean) • April 4, 2008 An organization that helps coordinate Metro adult education classes, from accounting and computer skills to pottery and calligraphy, would suffer a 15- to 20-percent cut in Mayor Karl Dean's proposed budget. Officials say the Community Education Alliance wouldn't be able to cover the county as well, and there would be little money left to print and distribute brochures about the classes. About 19,000 adult students took classes in 2006-07. "What good is it to have seven site coordinators here planning classes if there's no money to advertise them?" said Carl Myers, who has coordinated community education programs at Stratford High School in East Nashville since 1991. Under Dean's plan, the Community Education Alliance would see its funding drop from $741,000 this year to $593,500, a 19.9 percent reduction, in the budget year starting July 1. The Metro Council, which will set the final budget, will start budget hearings Monday. But Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said the true budget cut actually would be smaller than that because the alliance would lose $103,000 for its operations. The rest of the money it would lose now pays for services from other Metro departments in a practice, known as "internal service fees," that Dean's administration wants to abolish. "I don't think it's dissimilar to (the cuts) a lot of departments received," Riebeling said. Schools help pay The alliance is part of Metro's central government, but its site coordinators report to an official with the Metro school district, which provides a much smaller portion of the funding for community education. The combined city and school district funds pay for site coordinators, advertising, office supplies and other needs, while student fees cover the cost of teacher salaries, Myers said. Riebeling said community education should be more self-sustaining. "We subsidize them more than the schools do," he said. Corine Jackson, who coordinates community education and before- and after-school programs for Metro schools, said the budget cut would force her to eliminate one of eight coordinator positions. "We would either spread ourselves a little thinner or, frankly, one part of the county would not see our services," Jackson said.

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