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Adult ed advocate meets with Steele

February 21, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

A Hagerstown man met with Maryland's lieutenant governor Thursday, urging the state to spend more money on adult literacy.

Statewide, about 1 in 5 adults function at the lowest literacy level, Brad H. Keller said.

"That means they can't pick out two pieces of information from a newspaper article, find an intersection on a street map or read a bus schedule," he said.

In Washington County, that definition applies to 17 percent of those 16 and older, said Keller, public policy chair of the Maryland Association for Adult Community Continuing Education.

Yet Maryland ranks among the lowest in spending for adult education and there are thousands of people on waiting lists for programs, he said.

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"These are people who want to support themselves. They don't want the state to help them. They want to go to school so they can help themselves and their families," he said.

Del. Christopher B. Shank and Del. Robert A. McKee arranged for Keller and other adult education advocates to meet with Lt. Gov. Michael Steele on Thursday.

Right now the state spends about $2.4 million a year on adult education programs.

Recently, a task force determined there are 700,000 to 900,000 adults in the state who either don't have a high school diploma or can't speak English very well.

A bill sponsored by Del. Sheila Hixson, D-Montgomery, would slowly increase the state's adult education budget beginning in 2006, reaching $3.5 million in 2010.

Keller, 50, also has a professional interest in the issue. He's a principal for correctional education at Maryland Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown.

But he said the money he is lobbying for would not go toward correctional education, which is part of the prison budget.

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