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 Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
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.

VOA Blogs

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