Immigrants and teachers seek permanent funding for adult literacy

May 14, 2019 Mary Frost
English language learners and their teachers rallied in the rain at Brooklyn Borough Hall on Monday. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
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Monday’s rain couldn’t stop students and their teachers from rallying on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall to demand permanent city funding for adult literacy programs.

Recent immigrants said they need the classes in order to get jobs and to help their children at school.

City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, a staunch advocate of adult literacy programs, was applauded as he led a chant, “What do we want?” “Education!” “When do we want it?” “Now!”

Adult literacy classes serve roughly 5,700 students throughout the city, including more than 1,800 in Brooklyn. Roughly $12 million in funds dedicated to teaching English to adults was eliminated from Mayor Bill de Blasio’s executive budget plan for fiscal year 2020, which he presented in April. A similar cut was made last year, before it was restored by the City Council.

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Lena Cohen, civic engagement associate at the nonprofit United Neighborhood Houses, said it’s time the city provided permanent “baseline” funding for adult literacy programs.

“Education is a right,” she told the crowd. “It’s essential for adults to improve their economic, civic and social standing in America.”

Rally sponsor New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy, a collection of community organizations, libraries and CUNY branches that provide English language programs, says the classes are drastically underfunded, with at least 15,000 New Yorkers on waitlists.

The budget for the 2020 fiscal year will be finalized in June after negotiations with the City Council.

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