Academic journal article Adult Learning

Race to the Top and the Exclusion of Welfare Recipients from Educational Policy Discourse

Academic journal article Adult Learning

Race to the Top and the Exclusion of Welfare Recipients from Educational Policy Discourse

Article excerpt

Abstract: In 2009, President Obama and his administration sought to overhaul the existing educational reform program and launched their initiative titled Race to the Top (RTTT). RTTT, a competitive grant program, comprised six priorities designed to help states reform their current educational systems. Priority five calls for states to evaluate their current adult education programs and explore how they could improve those programs through the collaboration of community and states agencies. States currently support, design, and implement adult education programs under the federal guidelines of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). Although WIA addresses the needs of a targeted population of adult learners, it does not specifically address the educational needs of welfare recipients. Welfare recipients, who are among those considered to be in dire need of education and training, lack the support of policy to access adult education programs. This article explores the tensions that exist between the espoused purpose of RTTT and WIA, using the state of Texas' adult education policies as a case example. By using critical discourse analysis, we examine the policies in RTTT and WIA at the state level that defines the nature and scope of adult education. This form of analysis pro vides an opportunity to critically examine and explore the language of these various policies by focusing on not only what is present in the text but also on what is absent from it as well.

Keywords: adult education, policy, welfare, critical discourse analysis, reform


The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 was designed to not only support initiatives for the purpose of job creation but also invest in the Race to the Top (RTTT) fund to help reform the education systems across the country (U.S. Department of Education, 2009). More specifically, the ARRA is a funding purse from which monies can be drawn to serve as a down payment to jumpstart structures that have been neglected (National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 2011). Among these neglected structures is the education system within the United States. Funding derived from this purse can help to expand long awaited education opportunities. The monies earmarked for the RTTT fund provided by the ARRA is approximately US$4.35 billion (U.S. Department of Education, 2009).

The ARRA legislation that funds RTTT stemmed from the No Child Left Behind Act, which was instituted during the Bush administration and is now under attack. Duncan (2009) reminded the audience that improving education can restore the economy; however, this is not the only ambition of the reform. Duncan asserted that the reform has the ability to transform education by preparing students for lasting opportunities in K-12, postsecondary education systems, and the workforce, and by demonstrating competitiveness in a global economy.

In the RTTT reform plan, six priorities are outlined and include,

(1) comprehensive approach to education address the four core education reform areas; (2) emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM); (3) innovations for improving early learning outcomes; (4) expansion and adaptation of statewide longitudinal data systems; (5) P-20 coordination, vertical and horizontal alignment; and (6) school level conditions for reform, and innovation, and learning. (U.S. Department of Education, 2010, pp. 19496-19497)

The fifth priority suggests a merging of structures, such as educational systems, state agencies, and community organizations, as a way to overhaul the adult education system (U.S. Department of Education, 2009). It was also noted in the RTTT Executive Summary that this is an attempt to create a seamless approach to different educational structures, which were collapsed into vertical and horizontal alignment of services. The vertical alignment seeks to address the transitions from early childhood to postsecondary education, whereas the horizontal alignment seeks to address the educational needs of adults through the collaboration of schools, state agencies, and community partners. …

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