Blog: Latino Ed Beat

California Adult English Classes Vulnerable to Budget Cuts

School district administrators often talk about wanting to increase Latino parent involvement. Drawing immigrant parents in by offering English classes can create a gateway for future involvement by building a bridge between school and home.

But faced with the task of finding places to trim the budget, such classes can be an easy cut to make. Stateline, the news service of The Pew Center on the States, recently highlighted how a once-thriving adult English program in California vanished.

A program offered by the Oakland Unified School District that once served 14,000 people four years ago now serves only 320.

“Districts are so desperate for funds just to take care of their basic mission that they’ve had to make these horrible decisions,” Christian Nelson, Oakland’s head of adult and career education and president of the California Council for Adult Education (CCAE), told Stateline.

The Los Angeles school district offers just 200 English classes, and they often have long waiting lists to get in. The budget was four times larger four years ago.

A study released last July by the non-profit group EdSource, found that 23 of California’s 30 largest districts have experienced significants budget cuts to their adult education programs since the recession began. Some districts have closed adult education centers. The study reported that the Oakland Unified School District is expected to spend roughly $1 million on adult education this school year, down from $11.7 million in 2008-09.

According to EdSource, ESL classes are the largest adult education program in the state–GED programs rank second.

So how does it impact children when such programs are cut?

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a suburban Dallas school district offering ESL classes to parents. Many of the mothers I interviewed said they wanted to learn English so they could help their children with their homework, and expressed feeling helpless to assist them with schoolwork without English.

Does your local school district offer English classes to immigrant parents? And has the enrollment grown or dropped recently?