En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Adult Literacy
Type: Media Coverage

English-language classes on chopping block as state makes cuts to budget

Next casualty of the budget ax – English-language classes.

More than 100 immigrants and community leaders rallied in Jackson Heights Wednesday to protest proposed budget cuts to adult education and English as a Second Language classes.

The
demonstrators urged the state to restore more than $2 million in
funding for the programs before the new budget is adopted in the
upcoming weeks.

"We’re concerned that these cuts are going to
affect adult learners who are working to improve the quality of their
lives," said K.C. Williams, director of adult education at the nonprofit group Queens Community House.

"Queens is the borough with the highest concentration of recent immigrants."

With
the economy as tough as it is, advocates fear that depriving immigrants
of English classes could further jeopardize their livelihoods.

She
fears the cuts could prevent immigrants from being competitive in this
hard economy, when they can’t speak English and can’t afford to pay for
classes.

The classes are "investments in the future," Williams said at the rally in Travers Park. "The impacts are enormous."

That’s exactly what Carlos Angamavca is afraid of. The 22-year-old Ecuadoran immigrant has been taking free English classes at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City since November.

"Now my English is better than before," said Angamavca, of Jackson Heights.

"I can read a little more, I can write a little more, I can express myself. … I’m not afraid to talk."

Angamavca hopes to go to college for business administration, he said, and someday run a restaurant.

But
if his free English classes are discontinued, the part-time dishwasher
doesn’t know where else he can turn to for free lessons. And he’s not
alone.

There already are long waiting lists and lotteries
across the borough to get into programs for free ESL, GED and literacy
classes, advocates and teachers said.

The classes are offered by organizations such as Make the Road New York, the Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement House and Queens Community House, and at LaGuardia Community College.

"We have a tremendous waiting list," said LaGuardia ESL instructor Nieves Novoa.

"We cannot serve all the students that want classes."

If the budget ax falls, she fears summer and fall classes could be affected.

And with the economy in the shape it’s in, this may not be the best time to cut back.

"If students improve their language skills, they’ll have more opportunities to find a job," Novoa said.