In California, which is home to a quarter of the nation's population with limited English skills, the Great Recession has led authorities to scale back adult English classes, according to a Stateline report.

In Oakland public schools, 320 parents are registered in English adult courses, compared with 14,000 four years ago. Fewer classes will likely keep adults from moving up from lower-skilled jobs or helping their children with schoolwork, according to the news service of the Pew Center on the States.

An immigrant worker, for instance, typically can double his or her annual salary from $15,000 just by learning to read, write, and speak English.

"You can't go from being a dishwasher to being a waiter without knowing English," Joshua Hoyt of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights told Stateline.

Among the story's highlights:

  • California is home to 7 million people with limited English skills. Any major immigration reform passed by Congress will likely include some type of English requirement. For instance, those who applied for amnesty must complete 40 hours of English classes to qualify for legal status.  
  • Waiting lists are longer for GED courses, as a result of President Obama's deferred action for undocumented youths.
  • California spent $854 million on English classes: $773 million from state funds and $81 million in federal monies from the Workforce Investment Act.
  • About 23 of the state's largest 30 school districts undertook major cuts.

What to dig deeper?

  1. California's Commitment to Adult English Learners: Caught Between Funding and Need
  2. Education for Adult English Language Learners in the United States: Trends, Research, and Promising Practices
  3. Taking Limited English Proficiency Adults into Account in the Federal Adult Education Funding Formula.

This article is part of our Next America: Higher Education project, which is supported by grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Lumina Foundation.

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