Adult education faces elimination by LAUSD budget cuts

imageIn the midst of major budget cuts, the LAUSD has sent its newest and most impactful subject to the chopping block. And people aren’t happy.

The latest budget proposal shows the 120-million-dollar division of the adult and career education will be left with nothing for the 2012-2013 school year.

More than 350,000 students in Los Angeles currently take part in adult education programs ranging from high school completion courses to career classes.

“This is what democracy looks like,” said Raul Alvarez, Vice President of the United Teachers of LA. “We don’t understand why in this recession, they don’t understand that we need more job training, not less. A child needs not only school, but their whole family. Adult education helps parents and parents help children.”

This past school year, the LAUSD graduated a lowly 56% of its high school students. And in the past, adult education has been the safety net, allowing those who dropped out of high school a second chance at higher education; and it was successful.

Approximately 1,500 former high school dropouts graduated from the LAUSD Adult and Career Division programs last year.

The budget is to be voted upon next Tuesday.

Opinion: LAUSD continues its broken promises

imageLAUSD continues to break its promise to our community by closing adult education. Adult Ed. is one of the few places our students and community can have a second chance at receiving their high school diploma, make up a class they might have missed while in high school, improve their English skills, or simply to learn a new trade in industrial arts. Adult Ed. helps our economy by providing thousands of hard working adults and high school students with the skills they need to enter a new career.

LAUSD breaks its promise to our youngest children by planning to eliminate early education. These are pre-K classes that help children get a head start in school. Study after study show that students who are enrolled in early education classes perform better throughout their educational career; it’s a wise investment in the children’s future.* Working class parents especially depend on early education as they do not have the resources to enroll their children in expensive private schools, art and other enrichment programs.

LAUSD breaks its promise to educators by forcing them to take unnecessary furloughs this school year. In fact, teachers and health and human services professionals agreed to make a sacrifice and take up to 6 furlough days for the 2011-2012 year if California State budget projections fell short. Educators made this sacrifice to stop the increase of class sizes, shorten the school year and prevent the loss of thousands of jobs. Once December budget numbers were released, it was clear that the district received enough money to avoid furloughs for the year. However, LAUSD has continued its plans for furloughs and has not kept its promise of avoiding unnecessary furloughs. Moreover, it is doing so WITHOUT the agreement of the teachers union, UTLA.

LAUSD breaks its promise of a quality education to all our children. By shortening the school year, ending essential programs that give students and parents a second chance, and closing early education, LAUSD continues making and breaking promises. This especially affects the working class and communities of color in Los Angeles who depend on these programs for economic survival and success. LAUSD’s broken promises lead down the road to continuing poverty and the widening of the achievement gap.

It is time LAUSD keeps its promises with the community, parents, student and teachers.

What can you do?

Please call or email your school Board Member today and tell them to keep their promises. You can contact them by clicking here.

Also, join teachers, parents, various community groups and UTLA for a planned protest rally in front of LAUSD School Board on:
Tuesday, February 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm.

Jose Lara is a Social Justice Educator at Santee High School in South Los Angeles. He also serves as Secretary of the South Central Neighborhood Council and is very involved in educational and economic justice issues is South LA.

*For study on benefits of early education click here.

Adults overcome life without words at Centro Latino for Literacy

image In a bright blue classroom on MacArthur Park’s busy 8th street, Maria Hernandez is ready to learn. She has found a seat in the front row. Her books are neatly gathered on her desk, and she listens intently to her teacher’s instructions. Her teacher, Mr. Jorge, writes a sentence on the board.

With her red pen in hand, Hernandez copies the sentence down in her workbook. She is a model student and a grandmother — who came to the United States from El Salvador. Her whole life, Hernandez never knew how to read a word or even write her address.

“In my country, I couldn’t study. We lived in the countryside and the schools were very far. And because we needed to work, there wasn’t time for us to be sent so far to school,” says Hernandez in Spanish.

She was resourceful, like many newcomers to the U.S., and found a job at a restaurant where she worked for five years. But when new owners wanted her to take food orders, she couldn’t and the owners fired her.

Everyday hundreds of thousands of immigrants, most from Latin America, go to work in the gardens, restaurants and homes of Los Angeles. But an estimated 200,000 of them navigate the sprawling metropolis unable to read. Approaching its 20th year anniversary, Centro Latino for Literacy has been trying to change the reality illiterate immigrants face.

“We see ourselves as bridging that gap between the preliterate and English,” says Veronica Flores-Malagon, the programs manager at the nonprofit where Hernandez is studying.

When students first come to Centro Latino for Literacy they don’t learn English. They learn to read and write in Spanish. Illiterate Spanish-speakers often want to dive into English courses, but if they are unable to read in their own language they get left behind, says Flores Malagon.

“To advance in English, you have to have a strong foundation in your own language,” she says.

More than 3,000 students have gone through Centro Latino for Literacy courses. Most of those students are women.

“The root cause is poverty,” says Flores-Malagon. Illiteracy is more prevalent among women because large families often will only send the men to school, she adds.

The center offers two basic literacy classes. The first is a 100 hour computer-based program called Leamos, translated “We Read,” which can be completed from anywhere with internet access.

Once students pass that class they move onto Listos Functional, a lecture style course, which prepares students with skills like spelling, reading directions and buying groceries.

“They learn all these functional things you and I do everyday and we don’t even think about, like how does math and literacy factor into these everyday duties,” says Flores-Malagon.

Those everyday duties are challenging, even in Spanish-speaking neighborhoods. Many illiterate Latinos are ashamed to even tell relatives they can’t read or write.

“We want to help them develop self-esteem so they can help themselves, because we are just the vehicle and all the talents and motivations lie in the students,” says Flores-Malagon.

Most students are motivated to finish the courses because they want to learn English. It’s the number one reasons students come to the center. Hernandez says that’s her goal.

“Now when I finish this class, when I know all the letters in the alphabet, I’m going to study English, because I love English,” says Hernandez.

She’s taking her desire to learn to the streets. Hernandez is part of a group of students at the center called, promotores, who go out into the community and share information about the center.

“Sometimes I see people who are like how I was before. And so, I invite them and tell them, ‘let’s go,’ ” says Hernandez. “It’s beautiful because when you know a little bit, it gives you the will to keep studying.”

Here’s how you can get involved at Centro Latino for Literacy. Visit the website at or on Facebook or call their main line at 213-483-7753.