Adults who feared that a literacy and life skills program was being shut down under County Executive John G. Gary's budget for the year that starts July 1 needn't worry, an associate superintendent of the county schools said yesterday.
Only the administration of the program will change, from the public schools to Anne Arundel Community College, Kenneth Lawson, head of student services, told the County Council.
"Adult learners will see little, if any, changes in the program," he said. "About 90 percent of the sites where the program is now offered will remain the same next year."
The confusion over whether Adult Basic Education classes would continue began when Mr. Gary delivered a spending plan to the council that proposed to cut the program and four other adult learning programs -- Adult General Education, General Equivalency Diploma (GED), Evening High School and the External High School Diploma -- from the Board of Education operating budget.
More than 20 people made emotional pleas to the council at a budget hearing last week, asking that the county maintain the service, which it has offered for 50 years.
Un-Hui C. Fernandez, who moved to the United States five years ago from South Korea, was one of those who feared the program would disappear.
"I was eight months pregnant. I could not speak English very well," she testified. "I could not drive. I could not work. I was afraid to pick up the telephone. I used to say, 'No speak English.' Then I got my high school diploma, I became a U.S. citizen."
What Mrs. Fernandez, council members and others did not realize was that Mr. Gary had merely proposed transferred the money to the community college's operating budget.
Mr. Gary said he wanted to shift adult programs -- both basic and continuing education -- from the public schools to the community college. He reasoned that such a change would more accurately reflect the missions of each. The focus of the public schools should be on children and that of the college on adults, he said.
Shifting the adult education programs also is expected to qualify the community college for additional state aid by boosting its enrollment. Gary administration officials said that is money the county would not be eligible to receive if the programs remained in the public schools.
Meanwhile, the college and the Board of Education agreed that two of the five adult programs that offer traditional high school diplomas should continue to be run by the public schools. Those programs serve about 1,435 students over age 18.
The college will take over the adult literacy program, called Adult Basic Education, which serves about 1,600 students, the General Equivalency Diploma program, with about 400 students, and the Adult General Education program, with about 4,000 students.