News / USA

Budgets Slash English Classes for Immigrants

At the Centro Latino for Literacy in Los Angeles, some students must begin gaining English language skills by learning to read and write in their native Spanish. (VOA/C. Richard)
At the Centro Latino for Literacy in Los Angeles, some students must begin gaining English language skills by learning to read and write in their native Spanish. (VOA/C. Richard)
When the Adult School in Fontana, California, opens its enrollment office each day, there’s always a long line, and not enough classes to accommodate everyone who wants to sign up.

Until recently, California law set aside funds specifically for adult education. But to help schools meet funding shortages during the recent recession, state legislators let them use that money for other programs. That’s meant a 90 percent cut for Fontana’s adult school

And no room for Maria Flores in an advanced beginner English course. “They put me in the basic course. And that’s ‘Hello, Good Morning, How are you?’ I already know that. I need to practice, but often, there’s no room.”

Principal Cindy Gleason said many students have to settle for English classes that don’t match their abilities. And, with funds so short, she’s not sure how long her school can maintain even this level of service.

“Sometimes it can be discouraging not to know whether additional cuts are still coming and how we’ll be able to offer the services that our students and community need,” Gleason said.

With immigration reform a top policy priority this year, President Barack Obama and a bipartisan group of senators who are drafting legislation agree on one thing: millions of undocumented immigrants will have to start learning English before they can begin the legalization process.

But that’s more than 10 times as many students as there are classroom spaces, and recession-battered school districts are still cutting or eliminating English classes.

The crowding is especially bad in California, home to one of every four non-English-speaking immigrants in the United States. In Los Angeles, the adult education program has been cut by 75 percent.

At one time, the district offered English at hundreds of neighborhood sites, with classes held during the day and in the evening to accommodate immigrants’ work schedules. This year, those leases are not being renewed and teaching hours will be reduced.

Margie McHugh of the Migration Policy Institute predicts a tsunami of unmet demand for English training all across the country.

"A provision driving people trying to learn English and prove that they've learned English will touch off demand that is pretty certainly not going to be able to be met," McHugh said. "All across the country there are very severe capacity issues with systems being able to meet the existing demand. Overall in the U.S., we've lost about 25 percent of the capacity of the system. All told, nationally, there are only about 725,000 seats.”

In California, adult education administrator Andres Ameigeiras hopes to fill the gap with regional educational centers, like one which offers automotive repair and other vocational classes by day and English by night.

“We’re moving to move as many people for the dollar as we can," he said. "The biggest bang for the buck as the old saying goes.”

California Governor Jerry Brown wants to take responsibility for adult education away from school districts, whose main focus is children, and turn it over to community colleges.

But English language teachers caution that might not work for students who need basic one-on-one instruction.

At the nonprofit Centro Latino for Literacy  near downtown Los Angeles, English instruction for some students starts with teaching them to read and write in Spanish.

Centro president Mari Riddle said there are some 216,000 functionally illiterate Spanish-speaking immigrants in Los Angeles alone. She doubts many would succeed at a community college.

“We’ve had students that come in and say, ‘I have walked past LA Trade Tech for years." Riddle said. "I would never venture in to that campus. It’s too overwhelming. It’s too daunting.'”

Adult schools across the country are experimenting with computerized English instruction, hoping that the software will help substitute for the one-on-one attention beginning students need.

Margie McHugh of the Migration Policy Institute is skeptical. As immigration reform moves forward, she expects increasing calls for federal financial support to help make up the teacher shortage.

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Lance Johnson from: USA
April 08, 2013 1:40 PM
Speaking English is most important for immigrants succeeding in the US and contributing to our society. A new worldwide book/ebook, "What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to understand crazy American culture, people, government, business, language and more,” helps foreigners benefit from a better understanding, including our language. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it even has chapters on English grammar and speech that identify key problems common to foreigners (and Americans!) and how they can polish their communication skills.

Why is English such a monster to learn? Here's an excerpt from the book: "As you may know, English grammar rules are full of generalities and the generalities are full of exceptions. Even the exceptions have exceptions. This is why English is one of the most difficult languages to master." The book (and e-book) is filled with tips anyone can use to polish their speech and understand the key basics of English. Probably the number one problem foreigners have is slowing down when speaking English, followed by pronouncing consonants.

As the book points out, foreigners may think they know English but in many cases they have difficulty communicating to Western ears because of the common problems most have. Most struggle and need help from classes like these, concerned neighbors, and books like this to lend a helping hand. Good luck to all! www.AmericaAtoZ.com

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid