Southern Berkshires Still Without Adult Basic Education Program

Sep 12, 2012

Months after an adult learning center was shut down in Berkshire County after being denied funding by Massachusetts education officials, the Southern portion of the county is still without a program to provide for the area’s education needs. WAMC’s Berkshire Bureau Chief Lucas Willard reports…

The South Berkshire Educational Collaborative, an organization that provided educational services for adults free of charge, was closed on June 30th after being denied state and federal funding. Two what are known as ABE’s –or Adult Basic Education programs – received funding and are still operating in Berkshire County in Pittsfield and North Adams. However, the Southern portion of the County is still without a program to provide literacy education, English for Speakers of Other Languages – or ESOL- GED, or adult diploma programs.

Former Director of the South Berkshire Educational Collaborative John Grogan said the organization served between 150 and 170 individuals in the area, many of them immigrants learning English. Grogan mentioned that without a program in place for students to return to this Fall, many could “slip back” in their education.

According to JC Considine, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Education, at the beginning of the FY 2012, SBEC was awarded $191,121, which was further increased to $211,474. Considine says that SBEC was not funded to continue operation because it did not apply for funds.

John Grogan said that SBEC sought a partnership with Berkshire Community College to become its new fiscal agent for the next round of grant funding. After Grogan worked with BCC to write and file a grant proposal last February, it was denied.

A group that advocates for immigrant integration and education, Multicultural BRIDGE, also filed for the funds to keep the SBEC in operation and was denied. Executive Director Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant says that before the next proposal deadline on October 12, she’s reaching out to BCC and to the Berkshire Hills Regional School District for all 3 parties to work together going forward.

VanSant says that a portion of the immigrant population in Berkshire County relies on ABE’s to gain important job readiness skills she also says she hopes to meet with local lawmakers on the issue.

In the meantime, many disadvantaged adults in the southern Berkshires are without an ABE, and without means of transportation to head to other centers in the region. John Grogan says he hopes that new sponsors like BCC will step forward.