Monday, January 4, 1999
Adult School Given Boost
Programs for non-English speaking adults soon will be getting big checks from what some educators describe as the good part of Prop. 227.
The proposition was passed last June, ending the state's 30-year bilingual education system in favor of a one-year crash course in English designed to get all children into regular classrooms faster.
But a lesser known provision of the measure will send $50 million a year statewide to adult classes for English learners.
These adult students will be required to sign pledges that they will tutor or help children from limited English backgrounds with their studies once they have mastered the language.
Inland area school district officials are lining up to collect the money and expect local adult schools to swell.
Although there is elation over the funding, there is also confusion about how and when to bring the new English speakers together with school-age students.
"The proposition doesn't describe how tutoring will take place, but only that the pledges will occur," said Hector Rico, consultant in language proficiency for the California Department of Education.
Alvord school district officials have signed up to participate, but haven't designed a program.
"The tricky part is getting some commitment from them to tutor children," said Kathy Wright, assistant superintendent for educational services. "It's a difficult concept just learning themselves, and they are supposed to turn around and teach children to learn English. "
The Lake Elsinore school district plans to triple the size of its adult English as a Second Language program, collect the pledges and figure out the rest later.
"At some point in the future, when they have sufficient English skills to tutor, that will happen," said John Wise, director of administrative services. "When that would occur is uncertain; there are a lot of unknowns about how to implement this. "
Wise estimates Lake Elsinore's cut will be $105,000.
A school district's funding is based on the number of limited English-speaking students enrolled in schools throughout the district as of last March.
This year, school districts will receive double payment. Because of the midyear passage of Prop. 227, the state will send last year's money and this year's at the same time.
"We know there are tremendous needs," Wise said. "It's really a windfall and we have an obligation to take advantage of this money. "
Officials in the San Bernardino city school district say classes for adults learning English are jammed.
"We have so many parents wanting to learn English so they can help their kids. I think this is wonderful," said Delfina Lopez Bryant, director of English learners and support programs for the district.
Riverside Unified School District plans to put the money toward adult programs that already exist at some elementary schools, said Bill Ermert, assistant superintendent of adult and alternative education.
"We already have a big program, this would expand it," he said.