12 November 2002
We Need More Money For California Schools
In this country today, California schools are teaching over 45
percent of all immigrant students. Since the 1970’s, immigrants from
Mexico and Cuba have been steadily moving to California – legally and
illegally – because of the abundance of low paying farm worker jobs
available in our agricultural industry. In 1986 the Immigration Reform and
Control Act (IRCA) made it possible for long-term illegal immigrants to
regulize their status (61). Thus these workers began bringing their
families to California soon after the Act was signed. Because of this,
California’s LEP (limited English proficient) student population grew by 40
percent from 1990 – 1995.Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD)
seemed to be the hardest hit by this influx of LEP students partly because
metropolitan areas like L.A. are usually where large low-income housing
developments are located. These areas are where most immigrants end up
because it is all that they can afford when first arriving in America.
With this population growth came the overwhelming financial burden of
teaching these LEP students English. Because 42 percent of California’s
immigrant students are going to schools in LAUSD, I think that more federal
money should be allocated there as well to help them attain more bilingual
teachers, to assist with overcrowding and to aid other correlated services
commonly needed for new immigrants.
One advantage more federal funding would bring to Los Angeles schools
is the ability to hire more bilingual teachers. “As of 1995, California
had fewer than 11,000 fully certified bilingual teachers,” says Wayne A.
Cornelius, director of Studies and Programs at the Center for
U.S. – Mexican Studies. “That is approximately one for every 112 LEP
students (64).” During the last 10 years, the number of bilingual teachers
hired by the state only increased by 30 percent while the population of LEP
students grew by 150 percent (64). This has resulted in a huge mismatch
between students and teachers. As one L.A. district high school teacher
put it, “We now have a majority or near-majority student body in which the
primary language is Spanish. The teaching staff, in L.A. at least, is
aging and is primarily non-Spanish speaking. So the demographics are all
wrong (64).” This problem cannot be alleviated without more federal
funding for new teachers.
Besides needing more bilingual teachers in LAUSD, there is also an
urgency to build more schools to house this growth of LEP students. In
1995 there were over 860,000 LEP students in California alone with over
250,000 who had been in the U.S. for less than three years (61). With this
huge influx, it seems almost impossible for the state to keep up with the
need for new schools, especially without financial help from the federal
government. Unfortunately, the federal government has chosen to treat the
funding of immigrant education as a state and local responsibility (63).
“In 1992,” said Cornelius, “Congress even chose to withhold $812 million in
previously approved federal funding to help heavily impacted states and
localities pay for immigrants . . . (63)”. Without the new schools that
are so desperately needed, most likely, a good portion of immigrant
students will become frustrated and drop out of overcrowded schools, thus
increasing the criminal, welfare and unemployment rates.
In addition to needing federal funding to build new schools, there
are also extra expenses incurred for other immigrant services that schools
supply. Not only is money needed for bilingual education in general, but
there are also programs such as, ESL (English as a second language),
remedial education services, and psychological counseling as well as the
added burden to lunch and after school programs for disadvantaged families.
“The immigrant student
population is increasing at a time when school budgets are not,” says
Cornelius (63). Without these programs, there will be an increase of poor
academic performances by LEP students, which will lead to higher drop out
rates and a lifetime of limited earning opportunities for these students.
Federal funding, in my opinion, is absolutely necessary,
especially for overflowing schools in LAUSD, so that they are able to hire
more bilingual teachers, build much needed schools and pay for additional
immigrant programs. Without this financial assistance, there will likely
be a significant failure at helping these young immigrants to become a
viable part of American society. Instead they will become a drain on other
resources such as Welfare, Unemployment and the Criminal Justice
Department. As a California taxpayer, I realize that it is difficult to
support Bonds on election ballots for money to aid inner-city schools, but
if more money is not allocated for schools now, taxpayers will be saddled
with higher taxes later on to pay for those other programs. It can only be
an advantage to invest in the future of California’s immigrant youth by
gaining federal funds to support these badly needed bilingual programs now
and not wait to clean up a larger mess later.
Cornelius, Wayne A. “Educating California’s Immigrant Children”. (p.60-
76).The Failure of Bilingual Education. Amselle, Jorge, Ed.
Center for Equal Opportunity. Washington, DC. 1995. 18 Oct 2002. .