After nearly being forced to shut down its women’s GED certificate program in the wake of federal cuts to Americorps, the King County Jail (KCJ) came up with a plan to keep it going.
KCJ will pay for a teacher for the female inmates through its Inmate Welfare Fund, said Commander William Hayes, a jail spokesman. A long-term teacher for the women will be provided by Seattle Central Community College (SCCC), which is contracted with the jail to provide GED certificate education for male inmates.
The jail previously paid Americorps members about $7,500 a year to do the job, said David Gourd, interim dean for basic and transitional education at SCCC. And now, without the grant, the school is picking up the tab.
In June, jail staff got word that the Literacy Americorps grant used to maintain two Americorps members running the GED program for women was being cut at the federal level. This eliminated the Americorps members’ positions at the jail, and consequently, the women’s education program they administered.
Hayes said jail staff felt blindsided by the news, but immediately began working to resolve the problem.
“As soon as we were aware of it [we began looking for solutions] and media attention sparked us to move quicker,” he said.
He said KCJ hopes to maintain the program the same way it has been done in the past.
But the program is down to one teacher, and the teacher will do more than instruct. The faculty member hired by sccc will also be required to coordinate the University of Washington Pipeline program, a service-learning program used to find volunteer tutors to work with women inmates as they complete their ged.
As in the past, women participating in the classes will receive five hours of instruction per week, or 55 hours throughout the quarter.
SCCC measures success for inmate education based on a pre- and post-test. Those enrolled in the classes must complete 45 hours of GED certificate education before they can take the post-test.
Although they are pleased to have worked out how to continue funding the program, Gourd said he wishes the grant, which cut Americorps member positions nationwide, had been renewed.
“Boy, we’d really like our Americorps members back again,” he said. “We could provide even better services with them.”