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Literacy Zone Initiative: Federal Adult Education Funding From WIA Title II, 2009-2012


General Information

Literacy Zones is a reform initiative developed by the New York State Board of Regents and the State Education Department to close the achievement gap in urban and rural communities of concentrated poverty and high concentrations of families and individuals with limited literacy or English language proficiency.  Literacy Zones are intended to provide a systemic focus on meeting the literacy needs of communities, from birth through adult.  Funds are available through this Request for Proposals (RFP) for eligible applicants to provide instructional programs in adult literacy below the post-secondary level and support services, such as educational counseling and guidance. 

Mandatory Requirements

  1. Each applicant must geographically define the Literacy Zone it proposes to serve and must use funds to provide effective adult education in the Literacy Zone.  The geographic scope of a Literacy Zone is defined as a neighborhood, zip code, school district, or community; not a county, borough, region, or city. Applicants must justify poverty, literacy and English language proficiency need, and family and community needs in the proposed Literacy Zone using such factors as census data, public assistance and food stamp eligibility, community health data, school lunch eligibility, planning data, and data that identifies gaps in accessing benefits, services and supports such as attainment of the Earned Income Tax Credits, health insurance, and food stamps.
  2. Applicants must also establish one or more Family Welcome Center(s) in the Literacy Zone that provides access to a variety of coordinated services, which support students and their families, and open pathways out of poverty. 
  3. Every Literacy Zone must have a guiding coalition of stakeholders that includes government, education and community leaders with a clear commitment to developing the Literacy Zone over the next three years. Applicants must detail the role of the guiding coalition in the planning and implementation of the Literacy Zone, provide letters of commitment from all stakeholders, and provide evidence of strategic planning.
  4. Applicants must also coordinate with other types of organizations in the Literacy Zone such as:
  1. The applicant must provide in the Literacy Zone pathways out of poverty for individuals and families, including the following:

Funding and Project Period

Approximately $3 million per year in federal Workforce Investment Act Title II fund is expected to be available statewide for 3 years from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2012.  The NYS Education Department reserves the right to provide additional funding for the initiative if funds become available.  65 percent of the available funds will be targeted for applications from New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers.  35 percent will be targeted for applications from the rest of the state.  Applications from each of the Big Five Cities and the rest of the state will be reviewed as six separate competitions.  Only those applications receiving 70 or higher will be eligible for funding.
Grants are limited to up to $325,000 per year per Literacy Zone served in New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Yonkers and up to $200,000 per year per Literacy Zone served in the rest of the state. If an applicant wishes to serve more than one Literacy Zone, it must submit a separate application. 

Literacy Zone funds cannot be used to supplant other federal, State or local funds expended for adult education and family literacy programs and services.

Eligible Applicants

The following organizations are eligible to apply:

Payee ID Form

The Payee ID Form is used to establish an identifying number (Agency Code) that enables organizations (e.g., community-based organizations) to receive funds from the State Education Department. This form is to be submitted with each proposal from applicants that are not a BOCES or public school district. (BOCES and public school districts already have Agency Codes for this purpose.)  The Payee ID Form may be accessed at www.oms.nysed.gov/cafe/forms.html.

Vendor Responsibility

State law requires that the award of state contracts be made to responsible vendors. Before an award is made to a not-for-profit entity, a for-profit entity, a private college or university or a public entity not exempted by the Office of the State Comptroller, the Department must make an affirmative responsibility determination. The factors to be considered include: legal authority to do business in New York State; integrity; capacity- both organizational and financial; and previous performance. Before an award of $100,000 or greater can be made to a covered entity, the entity will be required to complete and submit a Vendor Responsibility Questionnaire.  School districts, Charter Schools, BOCES, public colleges and universities, public libraries, and the Research Foundation for SUNY and CUNY are some of the exempt entities.  For a complete list, see: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/vendrep/documents/vrdocrules.pdf.

Vendors are invited to file the required Vendor Responsibility Questionnaire online via the New York State VendRep System. To enroll in and use the New York State VendRep System, see the VendRep System instructions at: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/vendrep/systeminit.htm or go directly to the VendRep System online at https://portal.osc.state.ny.us/wps/portal.

For direct VendRep System user assistance, the OSC Help Desk may be reached at 866-370-4672 or 518-408-4672 or by email at helpdesk@osc.state.ny.us

Vendors opting to file a paper questionnaire can obtain the appropriate questionnaire from the VendRep website: http://www.osc.state.ny.us/vendrep/templates.htm or will receive it with the award letter.

NYSED Consortium Policy for State and Federal Discretionary Grant Programs

A proposal from a consortium may include other agencies and organizations, which combine to provide comprehensive services.  The proposals must clarify the roles, responsibilities and operating practices of each agency and the lead fiscal agency must provide at least 25% of the instructional program.
Applicants can form a partnership or consortium to apply for the grant.  In order to do so, the partnership or consortium must meet the following requirements:

  1. The partnership or consortium must designate one of the participants to serve as the applicant and fiscal agent for the grant.  The applicant agency must be an eligible grant recipient.  All other consortium members must be eligible grant participants, as defined by the program statute or regulation.
  1. In the event a grant is awarded to a partnership/consortium, the grant or grant contract will be prepared in the name of the applicant agency/fiscal agent, not the partnership/consortium, since the group is not a legal entity.
  1. The applicant agency/fiscal agent must meet the following requirements:

Not-For-Profit (NFP) Prompt Contracting

Chapter 166 of the Laws of 1991 added Article XI-B (The Prompt Contracting Law) to the State Finance Law promoting prompt contracting with NFP organizations.

More specifically, the Prompt Contracting Law sets time frames for processing contracts and related documents; provides for written directives, waivers of interest, and advances/loans to Not-for-Profits (NFPs) when those time frames cannot be met; and requires interest payments to NFPs when contract payments are late due to untimely processing of contracts and no advance or loan was provided. For information on loans for NFPs from the Short-Term Revolving Loan Fund, refer to Bulletin A-268. This bulletin explains the procedure to follow when contracting with NFPs.

Chapter 648 of the Laws of 1992 made several changes to Article XI-B. The 1992 revisions provided more reasonable time frames for processing local grant awards and federally funded contracts; allowed for State agencies and NFPs to waive interest payments under certain circumstances; eliminated interest penalties for contracts executed and funded in whole or in part for services rendered in a prior fiscal year; and limited the amount of time a state agency may suspend time frames to four and one-half months.

Chapter 292 of the Laws of 2007 added further amendments to Article XI-B. The 2007 amendments prohibit State agencies from requiring NFPs, as a prerequisite of the execution of a contract, to waive claims for interest that would otherwise be due; provide that a contract is deemed to continue, and the contract remains in effect when a State agency does not timely notify an NFP of an intent to terminate the contract; require that any waivers of interest be subject to the Office of the State Comptroller’s (OSC’s) approval and provide for the calculation and payment of interest to NFPs when OSC non-approves a waiver of interest; require State agencies to report prompt contracting information to OSC for inclusion in annual reports; and expand the NFP contracting advisory committee to sixteen members, require meetings at least quarterly, and expand the scope of the committee’s responsibility.

A key objective of the Prompt Contracting Law is to expedite the contract process, and corresponding payments with NFPs to avoid service interruptions and financial hardships for these organizations. OSC advises that State agencies take measures to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Prompt Contracting Law. To this end, State agencies should maximize their use of the standard contract boilerplate, including simplified renewal documents, written directives, and valid waivers of interest when contracting with NFPs.

State agencies utilizing waivers of interest should ensure that the waiver is signed and dated by the NFP, includes an explanation for the retroactive contract start date, and satisfies required time frames set by the law.

Note: The Prompt Contracting Law requirements pertain to all grant contracts with NFPs, including those that fall below the $50,000 threshold for the Comptroller’s prior approval.

Source:  OSC A-Bulletin A-316 (update effective January 1, 2008)

Program Services

The funding will support programs of instruction in adult basic education, English Language Learning (ELL) for speakers of other languages and adult secondary education (preparation for the General Educational Development (GED) test). The instructional programs that are eligible for funding are those that:

Please note the following restrictions:

Eligible program participants include individuals who have attained 16 years of age and are not enrolled or not required to be enrolled in secondary school under NYS law, and who:

Successful grant applicants will participate in local networking activities to coordinate programs and services with other providers within their Literacy Zone.  They will:

Programs shall operate in accordance with the following guidelines developed by the New York State Education Department (SED) for adult education programs.

1. Staff Development

2. High-Quality Information Management Systems

 3.  Special Requirements for GED Preparation Programs

Program Accountability

Under the federal National Reporting System (NRS) for adult literacy programs, New York State, and ultimately local service providers, will be evaluated based on performance indicators.  All successful applicants must submit data based on the federal requirements of the National Reporting System (NRS).  Information on the NRS may be found on the web page www.nrsweb.org

Implementation of the NRS in New York State is through the development of the Adult Student Information System AND Technical Support (ASISTS) participant database.  Information about the ASISTS database can be found at the Literacy Assistance Center’s (LAC) website at http://www.lacnyc.org/ALIES/ASISTS/ASISTS.htm.  The ASISTS database allows for data to be accessed and reported by sub-population, program, and class.  The ASISTS database is mandatory and is available to local provider agencies free of charge, including the related training and technical assistance.

SED has negotiated core performance targets with the US Department of Education.  All program participants must have the goal of advancing an educational functioning level or obtaining a GED or high school diploma. The individual participant can identify other goals as appropriate. 

Below are New York State’s targets for 2008-09 that agencies funded under this RFP are, at a minimum, expected to achieve.

New York State’s Performance Targets

Core Outcome Measures

Educational Gain
(Advancing an Educational Functioning Level):

State Targets

Proposed 2009-2010
Agency Targets


Adult Basic Education – Beginning Literacy




Adult Basic Education – Beginning Basic Education



Adult Basic Education – Intermediate Low



Adult Basic Education – Intermediate High



Adult Basic Education – low adult secondary education






ESL – beginning Literacy EL



ESL – low beginning EL



ESL – high beginning EL



ESL – low Intermediate EL



ESL – high intermediate EL



ESL – advanced EL



Received a GED or Secondary School Diploma (For Adult Secondary Education – High)



Other Goals
Entered Employment



Retained Employment



Entered Post-secondary Education or Training



In addition to the core outcome measures, the NRS establishes the following secondary outcome measures that SED is requiring for all agencies funded under this RFP.

Required Secondary Outcome Measures

NRS Outcome Measure


Reduction in Public Assistance

Participant’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) grant, or equivalent public assistance grant, is reduced or eliminated.

Achieved Citizenship Skills

Participant attains the skills needed to pass the U.S. citizenship exam.

Voting Behavior

Participant registers to vote or votes for the first time.

General Involvement in Community Activities

Participant increases involvement in any of the following:

  • Attending or organizing meetings of neighborhood, community or political organizations;
  • Volunteering to work for such organizations;
  • Contributing to the support of such organizations; and
  • Volunteering to work on community improvement activities.


NRS Family Literacy Outcome Measures


Examples of  Behavioral Outcomes

Increased involvement in children’s education

  • Helping children more frequently with their schoolwork.
  • Increased contact with children’s teachers to discuss children’s education.
  • More involved in children’s school, such as attending school activities and parent meetings and volunteering to work on school projects.

The parent takes an interest in what and how their child is learning.  There is an ongoing exchange of information between the parent and child’s teacher.

Increased involvement in children’s literacy-related activities

  • Reading to children.
  • Visiting a library.
  • Purchasing books or magazines for children.

The parent helps the child select books based on the child’s interests and skill level.  The parent connects stories to the child’s experiences.   The parent finds ways of extending child’s learning beyond what is required in the educational setting.

Participant Assessment and Follow-up

Participant Assessment and follow-up requirements apply to all programs funded under this RFP.
Initial student assessment should take place within the first twelve (12) hours of instruction.  All students will be tested at intervals necessary to determine status and progress. The following intervals are recommended:

Student assessment and post-testing should be accomplished with the acceptable standard assessment instruments.  These are the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE), version 9-10, the BEST Plus and the BEST Literacy.

Allowable and Non-Allowable Expenditures

Funds provided through this RFP shall in no way duplicate other funding provided by the New York State Education Department or any other federal, State or local government entity.  Funds cannot be used to supplant other federal, State or locally funded programs.

Allowable expenditures under this RFP include:

At least 85% of the grant funds must be used for instruction. Allowable instructional expenditures under this RFP include:

30% of the grant funds may be used for support services such as community partnership coordination, educational counseling and case management.

4% of grant funds must be reserved to support an annual Literacy Zone training summit and training costs for work readiness curricula and other research-based instruction that will be rolled out by SED during the contract period.
Administrative expenditures including indirect costs are limited to five percent (5%) unless the agency’s approved indirect cost rate is higher than five percent.  Examples of indirect costs include depreciation on buildings and equipment, the costs of operating and maintaining facilities, and general administration and general expenses, such as the salaries and expenses of executive officers, personnel administration, and accounting/auditing. 

Non-allowable expenses include:

No more than 25% of the grant funds may be sub-contracted out.

Method of Awarding Grants

Only complete proposals postmarked on or before due date will be reviewed.  A complete proposal is one that contains every item on the Application Checklist in the same order that it is listed on the Application Checklist. 
In order to be considered for funding, proposals must receive a minimum score of 70 points.  In the event of a tie score, the applicant with the highest score in the Project Description portion of the Proposal Narrative will be ranked higher.
Proposed budgets will be reviewed and items deemed inappropriate, unallowable or inconsistent with project or program activities will be eliminated.  Budgets that include inappropriate and/or unallowable proposed expenditures will receive a low score.

Applications will be separated into the following six regions:  New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, Yonkers, Syracuse and the rest of the state.  65 % of the funds will be divided equally among the five cities and 35% of the funds will be reserved for applications from the rest of the state. 

Grants in the amount of the budgets, as adjusted, will be made to the highest ranking applicants in each region until funds reserved for that region are insufficient to fund the next ranking applicant in that region in full. That applicant will be given the opportunity to run a smaller program than proposed in their application.  If the applicant declines that opportunity, the next ranking applicant will be offered the opportunity, and so on.  If funds remain in a region after all applicants scoring 70 and above are funded, the funds will be allocated as follows:  For the 5 cities, funds will be used to fund the highest scoring application (scoring over 70) in any of the five city regions.  If there are no unfunded applications or if funds still remain, the funds will be used to fund the highest scoring application (scoring over 70) in the rest of the state region.  Any remaining funds originally allocated to the rest of the state region will be used to fund the highest scoring application in any of the five city regions.

The New York State Education Department reserves the right to reject all proposals received or cancel this RFP if it is in the best interest of the Department.

Submission Instructions

Please submit one original and 2 copies of the complete proposal postmarked by  March 2, 2009 to:

Grants Management, Room 674 EBA
New York State Education Department
Albany, NY 12234 

Use the Application Checklist to ensure that you send a complete application package.  Incomplete applications will not be reviewed.

Page Limits and Standards

The Project Narrative must be no more than ten [10] 8.5” x 11” single-spaced pages with one-inch margins. Double space between the headings and the text.  Use a 12-point Times Roman or Arial font.  The Budget Narrative and Category Forms, Program Target Worksheet, Program Component Worksheet, and Program Component Information Sheet are not included in this limit.

Applications that do not follow these standards or exceeds the page limit will not be reviewed.

Budget Category and Narrative Forms and Budget Summary Form (FS-20)

The application must include a budget narrative for each category of expenditure that is required for the grant (Professional Salaries, Support Staff Salaries, Purchased Services, Supplies and Materials, Travel Expenses, Employee Benefits, Indirect Cost, BOCES Services, Minor Remodeling, and Equipment) and a Budget Summary Form (FS-20).  The Budget Summary Form (FS-20) can be accessed at http://www.oms.nysed.gov/cafe/forms.html   The budget narrative and category forms must include sufficient detail to allow reviewers to understand what the funds will be used for and the relationship between the proposed expenditures and project activities and goals. 

General information about the categories of expenditures, general information on allowable costs and applicable federal costs principles and administrative regulations are available in the Fiscal Guidelines for Federal and State Aided Grants.  Refer to the Application Guidance for additional specific requirements and information about the allowable and non-allowable activities for the program.

The totals from each of the Budget Narrative and Category Form must equal the amounts on the Budget Summary Form (FS-20).  Please be sure to check your math. 

Only equipment items with a unit cost that equals or exceeds $5,000 should be included under Equipment, Code 20.  Equipment items under $5,000 should be included under Supplies and Materials, Code 45.


2009-2012 Literacy Zone RFP Rating Sheet (in Word)