Photo: Pearl Gabel, Brooklyn Bureau
Every year, more than 700 adult immigrant students complete free English, citizenship, Spanish GED and computer classes at MRNY. Statewide, however, only four percent of adults in need of English classes and GED preparation are able to find seats in free classes, making MRNY’s class offerings critically important. Now, cuts to the Federal, State and City budgets are looming and these classes are at risk of being lost. Students at MRNY are standing up to let elected officials know how important access to adult education really is.
The situation for adult education programs is dire. Last year, President Obama agreed to cut 50 percent of the federal Community Service Block Grants (CSBG), which fund Citizenship classes at MRNY and scores of other vital community education services. Meanwhile, other federal money for adult education is at risk of being diverted to support job training programs instead of the basic literacy classes that so many new immigrants and working class people need first.
Additionally, a much larger investment in adult classes is still needed at the State level, and at the City level, Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed budget plan this year includes zero City funds for Adult Education classes. If passed, Mayor Bloomberg’s budget will result in the loss of 7,000 adult education opportunities in NYC, and will affect over 100 adult literacy programs.
In the face of these serious threats, MRNY members, and teachers, have taken leadership in the fight to save these programs. Their work has been impressive and impactful:
- In classes this spring, teachers led a unit on education and the budget process as part of MRNY’s hands-on, topical approach to literacy development.
- Students led information sessions and planning meetings in multiple boroughs to coordinate a response to the proposed budget cutbacks, writing testimonies and letters to elected officials, and collecting signatures from over 1,200 friends and neighbors.
- Staff and students mobilized scores of affected community members for public hearings and rallies in Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island on the federal cuts, and students testified about the critical importance of classes for the future of our communities;
- More than 100 MRNY students and members of MRNY’s Education Justice Project travelled to Albany to testify and talk with Assembly, Senate and State Education Department officials about our concerns with the cuts; and
- MRNY students met with City Council Members to discuss a range of revenue generation alternatives and to push for restorations of money for classes in the city budget.
Thanks to their work, $1 million was added back into the state budget for adult education classes and MRNY continues to push elected leaders at all levels of government to increase public investment in education for communities that need it the most.