We Need More Money For California Schools


1


English 101


12 November 2002


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


2


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


3


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