Adult Education Needs Multi-Issue Advocacy

September 26th, 2017 | Blogs

The Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education (MCAE) is thrilled to join with World Education and the National Coalition for Literacy in celebrating Adult Education and Family Learning Week 2017.  Given recent events, the theme for this year’s commemoration could scarcely offer a more timely reminder of some of our most basic democratic responsibilities:  to speak out in the face of social and economic injustice, to discuss openly solutions to the problems that plague us all, and to urge those we have elected on our behalf to act in the public interest.

As we consider how best to fulfill those responsibilities, we should remember that one’s civic voice can be at its most powerful and most compelling when it combines with others to form a resounding and unified chorus, whether in decrying ills, chanting demands, or offering praise.  Nor should we forget that there is always more than one song to be sung on behalf of adult students and educators.  While ensuring that sufficient public resources are available for all adults to secure the education they need to succeed and thrive is certainly a critical task, it is not the only means by which adult education advocates can help to improve the lives of those who teach and learn in our classrooms each day.

The fundamental obligation to use our voice to affect change lies at the very heart of MCAE’s mission. Since 1992, MCAE has sought to serve as “The Voice of Adult Education in Massachusetts,” championing the right of all adults to acquire the literacy, English language, and numeracy skills that lead to economic prosperity, strong families, and vibrant communities.  MCAE’s advocacy efforts, in turn, are informed by a dedication to collective action and a broad appreciation of the challenges facing educators and students.

Consequently, MCAE constantly strives to engage new partners, representing a variety of perspectives and experiences, in its own endeavors to inform public debates.  Just as importantly though, MCAE is an active member of several standing coalitions that encompass a wide range of entities and interests.

For instance, MCAE is a proud participant in RaiseUp Massachusetts, a grassroots coalition of community organizations, religious groups, and labor unions committed to building an economy that works for all.  RaiseUp was the driving force behind an amendment to the Massachusetts Constitution that will go before Bay State voters for their approval in November of 2018.  If approved, that “Fair Share” Amendment would impose a surtax on incomes over $1 million and generate nearly $2 billion for critical education and transportation investments here in the Commonwealth.  This fall, MCAE will join with RaiseUp as it works to collect the more than 120,000 signatures necessary to bring two more issues vital to low- and middle-income families to next year’s ballot: an increase in the minimum wage to $15 per hour and the creation of a new paid family and medical leave program.

Similarly, MCAE is a member of the Massachusetts Immigration and Refugee Coalition (MIRA), the largest organization in New England promoting the rights and integration of immigrants and refugees.  MIRA has long championed groundbreaking legislation, now known as the Safe Communities Act, to protect civil rights and public safety by, among other changes, prohibiting the use of state or local funds or resources for federal immigration enforcement purposes.  MCAE has publicly endorsed that legislation and provided testimony in support of it when it was heard in committee earlier this year.

So, raise your voice.  Make yourself heard.  Do it with a friend – or several hundred of them.  Do it in support of adult education – but also in defense of fair wages, labor reforms, and human rights.  Do it now – and keep doing it.

Jeff McLynch is the Director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education (MCAE)

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