A 40-year-old woman who dropped out of school in the eighth grade received her GED Thursday from the Adult Basic Education program.

"Get your education so you don't make mistakes. It's taken me years to get here," she said. "Please get your education."

Her education came about, in part, because of the efforts of Tom Facey, a state legislator and seventh-grade science teacher at Rattlesnake School.

Honored nationally as the Mountain Plains Adult Education Association Lay Leader for 2001, Facey also was recognized Thursday by the local Adult Education Association at its spring recognition potluck luncheon.

The honor can be earned only by those whose actions and diligence improve basic educational opportunities for adults but who are not working directly in the field of adult basic education.

"Working with adult education is challenging and rewarding," said Donna Bakke, Adult Basic Education's coordinator. "Without his help, we would have lost some funding this year."

Facey has been a watchdog for adult basic education programs during his time in the Legislature. In 1999, he worked to make sure the programs were funded, arranging for $95,000 to be provided through a federal block grant program. In the 2001 session, he led the effort to increase that amount to $195,000.

"We spend $4,000 for high school kids and $50 (per student) for this," Facey said Thursday. "It's a great bargain."

The Adult Education Association program ranges from teaching the English language to immigrants, to graduate-equivalency degree programs, to assisting mental health populations.

A 1976 University of Montana graduate, Facey taught adult basic education for two years 13 years ago in Connecticut. His students included a doctor from Poland and a real estate agent who needed to brush up on his math.

"I've taken on myself to follow adult education budgets and lobby for those," he said.

He counters, he said, the large lobbying efforts universities and K-12 schools can mount for their programs. His role is to make sure the state contributes its fair share to basic adult education, he said.

"It's a passion for me," Facey said.

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