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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More