Statistics on literacy in Georgia indicate that a third of adults in the state have difficulties with the English language, limiting both their employment opportunities and their quality of life. In 1990 the state launched the Certified Literate Community Program (CLCP) as a means to combat the problems of low literacy by shifting the focus for such efforts to the community level.
The Department of Technical and Adult Education (later the Technical College System of Georgia) placed the new program under the Office of Adult Literacy. The aim was to make literacy a community-wide effort to confront problems of funding and to reach adults needing literacy instruction.
By 2006 fifty-six community collaboratives were organized under the program. Most of the collaboratives work within a single county, but some cover multiple counties; the Southwest Regional CLCP, for example, includes fourteen counties. To qualify as a participant in the program, a community must set the goal of reducing its functional illiteracy rate by 50 percent within ten years. The specific numbers for each community are established in accordance with state guidelines. The Georgia Council on Adult Literacy, working with one full-time CLCP state director, approves applications for admission to the program. After ten years as a program participant, a CLCP organization that has reached its stated goal may apply for final certification as a Certified Literacy Program.
CLCP takes a local, bottom-up view of literacy problems, rather than conforming to rigid, state-set rules. Each one is a nonprofit collaborative that raises the visibility of literacy in its community and supports local organizations that provide specific literacy services. These services include preparing students for a high school equivalency, or General Educational Development, exam; working with non-English speakers to improve their language skills; and assisting native English speakers struggling with low literacy.
This flexible, community-based approach gives each of the CLCPs a unique organization and set of connections. All are governed by volunteer boards, which help to fund and promote literacy in the community. Most have one or more full- or part-time executives who seek literacy funding and supervise programs on a day-to-day basis. Many are physically housed in a state technical college located within the community, while others are headquartered at a chamber of commerce office. Some focus entirely on adult literacy; others view literacy as an educational continuum stretching from preschool activities to retirement.
Funding sources vary and include individual donations; fund-raisers such as spelling bees and charity auctions; grants from public schools and the local, state, and federal government; and corporate contributions. Annual budgets range from less than $10,000 to more than $1 million.
While the CLCP program alone will not eliminate the low literacy gap across the state, program participants have documented success in both annual numbers of people served and money raised in individual communities. In 1996, for instance, Warner Robins mayor Donald Walker was shocked to find that many sanitation workers could not read a set of instructions that changed routes and assignments. Private and public agencies in the community, galvanized by the challenge of low literacy in the workplace, formed the Houston County CLCP in 1998 to address the problem. By 2003 the organization had enrolled nearly 6,000 students in local literacy programs. That same year, the Houston County CLCP was named one of twelve Community Partnerships for Adult Learning by the U.S Department of Education in recognition of its effective collaborative practices.