Davina Sanderlin planned for the day she would lose her job at Shieldalloy Metallurgical Corp., because she knew it would happen eventually. The aluminum-manufacturing company had closed its Newfield, Gloucester County, plant and was laying off its office employees one after another.
Sure enough, the married Millville mother of two was laid off last year.
“I had a job for 18 years that I recently lost, and where else was I going to get job training real quick?” Sanderlin asked.
She turned to Cumberland County Technical Education Center for retraining as a licensed practical nurse. With a high job-placement rate and a long-standing nurse shortage, she thinks her prospects look good.
But now, due in part to $10 million in adult education cuts proposed by Gov. Chris Christie, programs like the one at CCTEC are facing severe cuts or even elimination.
Elsewhere, Vineland school officials said Monday that they plan to close their all adult education programs to balance their budgets.
Ten people would lose their jobs, and the 1,000 adults who annually take classes in Vineland schools would have to find someplace else to help them re-enter the work force. Cutting it would save the district $725,335.
Atlantic City Superintendent Fredrick Nickles said Thursday his district will also shut down its adult education programs. Several school districts in northern New Jersey are planning similar cuts, said Judy Savage, executive director of the New Jersey Council of County Vocational Schools. CCTEC lost $1.2 million in funding as well. Superintendent Darlene Barber declined to reveal specifics on proposed cuts at her school, saying she would do so early next week.
The irony is that the cuts come at a time when some of these programs are booming. CCTEC’s enrollment approximately doubled to nearly 400 students this year, Barber said, due in part to federal economic stimulus funding intended to retrain people such as Sanderlin who have lost their jobs and want to quickly re-enter the work force.
“Unfortunately, all the cuts are coming at a time when a lot of people are unemployed, and Obama’s stimulus funds go toward adult education,” Barber said.
“They’re paying tuition for unemployed and underemployed people,” Barber said. “The adult side is thriving because of the stimulus package.”
State funding for adult education has been a common target for budget cuts in the past, but typically the cuts do not pass the Legislature. Some officials believe this year will be different, largely because of the depth of the state’s budget hole.
“I think we’re all mindful of the crisis the state is facing right now,” Savage said. “But in these economic times, we also have to think about what are the cost-effective ways of getting people into the work force and able to produce tax revenue for the state.”
Phone calls to officials at Southern Regional School District in Ocean County and Cape May County Technical School District were not returned on Friday.
Sanderlin is just one of many adults seeking to further their education at CCTEC.
Classmate Tiffany Gonzalez got laid off last year from her job at Comar, a packaging company with a facility in Buena, and needed an income to help her husband provide for their three children. With unemployment lasting only so long and a dry job market, she felt she needed to retrain.
“They kept cutting and cutting, and I got cut,” said Gonzalez, who lives in Millville. “I figured, when I got cut, I wanted to have a plan. But there are no jobs anywhere.”
So she enrolled at CCTEC.
Joy Wood, a supervisor at the school and a nurse at South Jersey Healthcare’s Regional Medical Center, said adult education programs are often the quickest and most efficient way of returning people to the work force. She experienced that firsthand about 20 years ago, having attended CCTEC as a single mother of three children under the age of 3.
“These people need a second chance,” Wood said. “Everything they’ve done their whole life is now gone. What are they going to do? They need the education.”
The loss of adult education programs in Atlantic City and Vineland would mean the elimination of other opportunities. Their focus is largely on helping people gain high school diplomas. Vineland also offers English as a Second Language courses, and it’s the only place south of Camden to offer GED courses in Spanish, Vineland adult school Principal Joe Camardo said. Camardo said Vineland school officials could still choose to keep Vineland’s adult education program, and he’s hopeful they will.
“A loss of any of our programs is obviously going to be detrimental to our clients,” Camardo said. “I’m not going to say there’s no one else in the world who can do what we do. I’m not that naive. It’s just a question of where the pieces fall.”
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