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Article 2. Pilot Projects. Literacy; distance learning   

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The Legislature finds and declares as follows:

(a) The California Workforce Literacy Task Force recommended in 1990 that California's Legislature and Governor work together to promote awareness of the serious need facing the state for greater investments in the literacy skills development of our underserved youth and adult human resources.

(b) More than half of California's youth and adults are not seeking higher education. An estimated seven million of California's youth and adults, age 15 years and older, have educationally developed skills below the 9th grade level, and many are in need of English language training.

(c) State-provided literacy programs cannot meet the present demands for services, yet a majority of those who could benefit from additional education are not being reached, and of those who are served, most drop out without increasing their skills to the 9th grade level.

(d) Most of the population in need of literacy and other cognitive skills development are not being reached and served by the current delivery system. A limitation on the funds available for this purpose has the effect of causing many individuals to be turned away from programs. Among the reasons given for nonparticipation are failure to recognize a skills problem, fear of admitting a literacy problem at work, or embarrassment. The demands of work and family may create barriers to participation. Negative attitudes about classroom learning, times, and locations for learning are often reported. The perceived lack of any rewards or benefits offers little incentive for many of the persons in need of improving their skills.

(e) Distance learning instructional technologies provide California with excellent opportunities to accomplish important long-range educational opportunities and objectives efficiently.

(f) Distance learning is changing educational boundaries that traditionally have been defined by location and institution. Using distance learning technology, classrooms may now extend to students in other schools, in other cities, in other states, and in other nations. A high school course in advanced mathematics may be taught by a university professor in a live, interactive situation linking high school pupils in inner-city areas of Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit, and rural areas of California.

(g) California is far behind other states in statewide planning and policy development for distance learning. As a result, the benefits of distance learning are not being shared equitably across the state, the resources are not being used as efficiently as they might be, the potential of distance learning technologies to meet broader school and college reform goals is not being maximized, and outmoded statutes and policies block the full utilization of the new technologies.

(h) The federal Office of Technology Assessment concluded in a 1989 report that the recent expansion of distance learning has provided a unique opportunity for collaboration and resource sharing by educators from various institutional, instructional, and geographic locations. Joint activities by representatives from public schools, higher education, and the private sector have multiplied significantly during the past five years, seeking to use distance learning as a means to respond to the need for improved educational services. Distance learning technology has been successfully used in many states to provide educational services for the geographically isolated schools and for underserved or advanced students. States are now using distance learning as a means of solving other educational deficiencies, including inadequacies in faculty and staff development, parental involvement, and cultural relations.

(i) The changing composition of California society has resulted in an increase in the adult population demand for English language and basic skills instruction that school districts and community college districts have been unable to meet due to budget constraints. In response to this situation, it is the intent of the Legislature to expand the utilization of distance learning technology in the provision of English language and basic skills instruction to adults in all regions of the state.

(Added by Stats. 1995, Ch. 758, Sec. 48.)