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San Antonio Commission on Literacy

Joseph R. (Roy) Kaiser
c/o Literacy Services Division
700 South Zarzamora Street #LL1
San Antonio, TX 78207
(210) 207-7149
FAX: (210) 207-4075 (go to: Services: Services Listing : Literacy Centers)

Year Incorporated

(Note: this coalition is not incorporated) 1987

Vision and/or Mission

Vision: The San Antonio Community will achieve literacy to function successful as responsible students, parents, citizens and self-sufficient workers.
Mission: Recognizing the value of self sufficiency and lifelong learning to individual success, the mission of the San Antonio Commission on Literacy is to:

Enhance through advocacy, community awareness of the dimensions of the urban literacy needs:

Promote family literacy and increased proficiency in educational skills needed to enter the workforce and/or to progress in the high performance workplace of the 21st century;

Publicize, promote, and coordinate service provider efforts;

Develop and maximize resources; and

Promote multi-level literacy partnerships between citizens, agencies, and institutions.


In August 1987, the City Council of San Antonio appointed a fifteen-member advisory Commission. Eleven members were appointed by the Mayor and ten City Council District representatives; four others were appointed as ex-officio from organizations related to literacy. The Commission was appointed to advise the City Council on how to combat adult illiteracy which, at the time, was at 22.5 percent among the adult population.
The appointment of the Commission was triggered by the discovery that a local adult education cooperative was returning funds back to the state because its "role was supportive to provide instructional staff and materials, not organizing new service providers."

Founding Leaders

Representatives from various sectors (i.e., primary/secondary education, higher education, community-based organizations, business, media, adult literacy providers, the public library, San Antonio Youth Literacy, and the Greater San Antonio Literacy Board (now the San Antonio Coalition of Literacy Service Providers). Today, membership on the Commission includes representatives from all four local Adult Education Cooperatives.

Early Successes

Developed an adult literacy program which recognizes that the problem of illiteracy belongs to the entire community and that the solution to the problem lies in the ability of community resources to work together, to invest their respective resources, and not worry too much about who gets the credit. The concept requires extensive collaboration. The City Council approved and funded this proposal in 1988, which included a citywide referral service and a Learning and Leadership Development Center in each Council district.

A strong volunteer program providing tutoring in basic literacy was established.

Opened the first Commission-operated Learning Center in February 1989.

Created a 225-READ Central Referral Center which now connects clients and volunteers to 238 literacy provider locations throughout the city.

Spearheaded passage of a Libraries Expansion/Learning Centers Bond Issue which has provided $5.8 million for the construction of eight learning and leadership development centers. Seven have been built, each offering up to 30 classes per week.

Early Challenges

People/organizations in the literacy movement had to make the operational concept shift from exclusivity (my client, my funding, my resources, my turf) to inclusivity (our client, our funding, our resources, our turf).

It was a challenge getting the business community to support the effort.

Turning Point

The Commission reached a major milestone when we opened our first Learning Center that had been financed through the bond issue, in May 1990. Extensive collaboration had been required to complete this project.
We started with basic literacy, adult education and GED preparation, and are now evolving to include technology, job readiness, financial literacy and job placement. We also engage in public/private partnerships.

Current Size

238 literacy provider sites operate in the San Antonio area.

Staffing is supported by the City of San Antonio and includes administrative personnel as well as personnel in the seven bond-funded Learning Centers and in the referral center.

$1.7 million budget.

Offices in city facilities.

Recent Accomplishments

Collaborated with a staffing agency to create the Better Career program that provides an intensive three-week skills upgrade program with commitment to place learners in jobs paying $7.00 to $9.00 to start.

Launched the NEFE Financial Literacy course at three Learning Centers.

Implemented refined performance measures, reporting on a monthly basis.

Conducts Literacy Awareness Month Events which include the Literacy Awareness Business Breakfast, the San Antonio Run/Walk for Literacy (to support a GED Financial Assistance fund), and an annual Convocation of literacy Service Providers.

Has a Financial Assistance Fund for students.

Facilitates an annual GED graduation ceremony for graduates of the city-operated Learning Centers.

Next Steps - Managerial

Complete construction and begin operations at an eighth bond-supported Learning Center. Northeast ISD has agreed to lease the land, at no cost, to the city.

Find ways to increase staffing at the Learning Centers.

Develop better and more effective working relationships with the local workforce board.

Next Steps - Programmatic

Open the Learning Centers seven days a week so that more community members have access to technology and the Internet.

Implement other public/private special projects on weekends (such as Literacy for Life, Project SUCCESS, and TRIAD).

Find ways to meet the growing business demand for workplace literacy services.

Advice to Other Coalitions

Define the extent to which illiteracy is a problem in your community. Collect, organize, and analyze all pertinent information: who is doing what, where, when, how? Consider all resources (religious, public private). Bring these resources together to talk about the issue and develop collaborative strategies for implementation. Develop an implementation plan where all players know and commit to carrying out their respective roles. Finally, continually monitor your progress. Make course corrections as appropriate. (Remember, collaboration requires a major shift in attitude. It requires building trust, and it requires discipline, no matter how long it takes, before you can see tangible results.... Nothing that is worthwhile is every easy.

Last Updated

June 2001

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2004 American Library Association.