Your barista, your pharmacist, your babysitter, the waitress, bus boy and chef at your favorite restaurant, the person who made your clothes, the person who stocked your produce, the one who valet parked your car, they’re my students and LAUSD doesn’t want them to learn English anymore.
I’ve taught at Evans Community Adult School—the big white building on the corner of Sunset and Figueroa—for the last 10 years. We have students from 96 different countries including the USA. Evans has been a place where people from all over the world come together to learn about America and improve their English. In addition to ESL classes, we have a pre-high school and high school program as well as career courses like early childhood development, pharmacy and office technology. There are 347,000 students in the adult division of LAUSD. Improving the lives of these students costs LAUSD the equivalency of eight days of their annual budget, yet for some reason Superintendent Deasy has decided to eliminate the whole division.
Many of my students are parents trying to learn English to help their children. Many of them struggle just to make ends meet, often working until midnight, six to seven days a week. They still come to class at 8am. Some of the night students work all day and come to school at night or work all night in sweat shops and come to class before going to work. The thought of these students not having a chance to learn and improve their lives breaks my heart.
I also worry about the impact this will have on Los Angeles. We already have one of the most undereducated adult populations in any major metropolitan area in the USA (Workforce Literacy Project 2003).
The Board of Education has the money. The LAUSD budget includes $793 million for “other operating expenses” which includes travel expenses and instructional consultants. The capital outlay fund for $76.7 million includes books and media for libraries and equipment which is great, except for the fact that LAUSD has basically shut down all its libraries. So where is this money going? Who are these consultants?
347,000 adults want to be educated and the Board of Education doesn’t want them to be. I want to know why.