Adult education services, mandated by state statute, are offered to residents for free across Vermont’s 14 counties. Vermont Adult Learning (VAL) serves seven counties: Franklin, Grand Isle, Chittenden, Addison, Rutland, Windsor and Windham. Northeast Kingdom Learning Services (NEKLS) serves three counties: Orleans, Essex and Caledonia. Central Vermont Adult Basic Education (CVABE) serves three counties: Washington, Orange and Lamoille. The Tutorial Center (TTC) serves Bennington County.
Pre-pandemic conversations amongst programs pointed to the wisdom of joining forces to advocate for adequate funding and policy changes to better support students. Together, they formed the Vermont Adult Education and Literacy Network (AELN) and contracted with the Action Circles public policy group to represent the network in the legislature. That choice proved prescient as the AELN navigated new, uncharted “public health emergency” waters with the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic in March 2020. The AELN continues to weather ongoing impacts of the pandemic which introduced unanticipated costs, impacted enrollment, and demanded added nimbleness in service delivery to ensure learning continuity.
The AELN has worked together, with guidance from Action Circles, to identify legislative funding goals to enhance financial stability that—rattled by the pandemic—left programs with deficits. Members collaborated on materials preparation; outreach to legislators; and testimony, including from current and graduated students at the Vermont Legislature. The AELN co-wrote and received an earmark for statewide workforce development initiatives via Senator Bernie Sanders. Providing a unified front in the quest to secure adequate funding to provide quality educational experiences for adult learners who form the current and future backbone of Vermont’s economy is yielding positive results. Stay tuned!
“Working together enhances our ability to serve adult learners across the entire state,” said Hal Cohen, VAL Executive Director. “At the end of the day, we are here for the students.”
Photo: Hal Cohen, VAL Executive Director, at the Vermont State House on April 7th.