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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid