By Max Hrenda
To say that Carter County Schools’ Adult Education department has been overachieving wouldn’t be a stretch.
From July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012, with a staff of four and a 20 percent budget reduction, 143 adult students earned their GED certificates.
From July 1, 2012, to the present day, while again facing a 20 percent budget reduction, the same staff has helped 250 adults earn their GED diplomas.
“We have a very good adult education team here in Carter County,” said Steve Souder, who has taught adult education classes locally since 1997. “We are small, but we’ve been very successful and very efficient.”
In addition to the county, as a whole, the state of Tennessee appears to be efficient when educating its adults. In 2011, the state awarded 9,159 certificates, despite spending less on adult education than all but two of the 13 states in the Southeast; Tennessee averaged $425.81 spent on every GED awarded, which was the third-lowest average in the Southeast behind only Texas ($380.38) and Mississippi ($265.60).
And Tennessee projects a statewide increase in the demand for GED certificates.
Despite all of this, however, there are those at the state level who think adult education needs to be scaled back.
State Rep. Kent Williams said he first learned of impending budget cuts when he met with the Department of Workforce Development.
“They’re telling me they have to make cuts,” Williams said. “I don’t understand it. In this budget, we’re at 1.5 million more dollars being spent than any budget ever.”
Budget cuts are nothing new to the counties’ adult education programs. What is new, however, is the way the state is approaching them.
“The greatest difference is that they’re combining programs into one service area,” said Sonya Miller, supervisor of adult education for Carter County Schools. “For this area, Carter and Johnson counties will be considered Service Area No. 1. There will be one program administered by one or the other.”
The reason Miller does not know which county will administer the because it has yet to be established. The state has decreed that both counties will, in essence, compete for state funding.