OAKLAND — Scores of adult education teachers, students and young children gathered in front of the Oakland school district administration building Wednesday to protest deep cuts to adult education.

They carried signs such as "I love English for my future," "I need English class for a job," and "I help my children when I learn English." One little girl held a poster that read "My mom need English."

Adult education teachers are among 762 Oakland school district employees — everyone who is paid from special-purpose funds and grants — who received pink slips this week warning that they might lose their jobs. About 47 first- and second-year classroom teachers also received layoff notices, as well as five administrative employees, according to Troy Flint, spokesman for the Oakland Unified School District.

Flint confirmed that every adult education teacher received a pink slip warning of a potential layoff. State funding to adult education will be permanently cut by about 20 percent, he said.

"When it's a permanent reduction like this there's no real alternative besides to dramatically reduce ongoing costs," Flint said.

More than 2 million Californians each year participate in the state's adult education program, taking literacy, English and parenting classes, as well as programs for older adults.

Some adult education programs might face further cuts, as well; the state has temporarily allowed school districts to use certain special purpose funds, including adult education, for other expenses.

Larry Viles, who has taught adult education in Oakland for some 20 years, said he understood the predicament school districts face. Oakland Unified must cut about $28 million by the end of the 2009-2010 school year.

Still, he said, "We have a huge immigrant community in Oakland, and there are a lot of people out of work right now who are taking classes."

Dung Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant, said she hopes her English class won't be cut.

The courses at the local community college are too advanced, she said, at least for now.

"I need English for my life. I'll need English for my children, for the future," she said.

Reach Katy Murphy at 510-208-6424 or kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com. Read her Oakland schools blog at www.ibabuzz.com/education.