Wednesday, September 10, 2014

California Immigration & The English Language Learner

Statistics from May of 2013 show California has more immigrants than any other state and they represent more than 30% of the population of Los Angeles County. Now that the borders are no longer closed to our great State, one can only imagine how much higher this percentage will be in another year!

With the influx of immigrants comes the need for personnel to educate these English Language Learners in our California public school system. Facts about English learners from the Spring 2014 California Language Census from the California Department of Education indicate, "In the 2013-14 school year, there were 1,413,549 English learners constituting 22.7 percent of the total enrollment in California public schools. Of these English learners, the majority (73 percent) are enrolled in the elementary grades, kindergarten through grade six." Statistics show 84.24% of these English learners speak Spanish and we are told, "A total of 2,685,793 students enrolled in our California public school system speak a language other than English in their homes. This number represents about 43.1 percent of the state's public school enrollment."

We Are 23% Of California's Students
Understandably, the number of English language learners have soared through the years. California Education Code Article 3 Section 52161 of the Bilingual-Bicultural Education Act of 1976 states, "The Legislature finds that there are more than 288,000 school age children who are limited English proficient and who do not have the English language skills necessary to benefit from instruction only in English at a level substantially equivalent to pupils whose primary language is English."

Interestingly, back in 1976 we were educated on the problems our State was facing and is now facing to a further extent as immigrant children flood our borders: "The Legislature recognizes that the school dropout rate is excessive among pupils of limited English proficiency. This represents a tremendous loss in human resources and in potential personal income and tax revenues. Furthermore, high rates of joblessness among these dropouts contribute to the unemployment burden of the state."

It is no wonder California was recently "given a low grade in Education Week's annual state-by-state evaluation of school finances, teacher preparedness, academic achievement and other benchmarks."  Even worse, California was deemed the lowest in the nation with their "subpar financing!"  But wait, there's more! Due to California's current budget crisis, rather than find ways to "fix" the deficit, our government officials decided to reduce their workforce, laying off thousands of teachers while reducing the statewide teacher workforce by 11%!

California's Decline In Teaching Jobs
It is truly a vicious cycle and I speak for many educators who are asking, "What can we do to change the inevitable course of our immigrant children, when the majority (73 percent) of our English learners are Elementary School students and California has raised our class sizes from 20 to 30 students per classroom in grades K-3rd and 35 or more in grades 4th-6th?" Coupled with disregard by some Districts (like LBUSD as the 3rd largest District in California) for Bilingual Teachers to assist the parents as their children learn the English language, our State educational system is destined to fail!

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