Taking Limited English Proficient Adults into Account in the Federal Adult Education Funding Formula
This report examines the funding formula used to distribute Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Title II federal funds for adult education, literacy, and English as a Second Language instruction. Authors argue that the funding formula, which is based on the number of individuals in each state with less than a high school diploma, fails to reflect the size and needs of their service populations for the following reasons: First, the formula does not account for adults with limited English proficiency (LEP) with a high school degree or more, despite the eligibility of all LEP adults for WIA Title II programs. Second, the formula appears to underestimate the costs of serving less-educated LEP adults, who may require both basic education and ESL services.
According to the report, LEP adults represent a much larger share of the total adult population with less than a high school degree than of the total adult population with a high school degree or higher, LEP adults with at least a high school education have higher levels of English proficiency than those with less than a high school education, and LEP adults with less education are more heavily concentrated in the Southwest while those with at least a high school education are more concentrated in the Northeast.
The report then outlines the policy implications of these findings, noting that revisiting the formula—especially in the absence of additional funding—should be coupled with inquiry into strategies for targeting the instructional needs of both less-educated and better-educated LEP adults, as well as the best practices for successfully integrating all LEP adults and their children into the U.S. economic and social mainstream; and further analyses into the costs, benefits, and tradeoffs that may arise as a result of restructuring funding priorities.