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Adult Students Stage Protest over Proposed Cuts

Students at South Gate Community Adult School expressed their disapproval over budget cuts with a protest in front of their school’s campus on Firestone Boulevard.

This morning, adult students from went out en masse holding protest signs and chanting slogans to show their support for adult education.

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board members will vote on a budget this Tuesday that could eliminate funding for adult schools. The students at the protest shared stories of how adult education had bettered their professional and personal lives.

“I need to learn more about computers in order to keep on getting promoted in my job,” said Fredy Chanquin, 37, who works as quality auditor, and is also an alumni of the English as second language (ESL) program at South Gate Community Adult School.

“Because of my enrollment at [South Gate Community Adult School], I was able to learn English, become a U.S citizen and receive a better position within my job,” said Chanquin, who is originally from Guatemala. 

Adult schools offer a varied collection of inexpensive courses, such as preparation for General Educational Development tests, English language courses and technical classes, among many others.

Last February, the board members of the Los Angeles Unified School District considered a budget proposal to eliminate all adult education funding. The board put off a decision to Tuesday to see if other funds can be allocated to the adult program.

The LAUSD is facing a deficit of $543 million and has a budget of over $6 billion for the 2012-2013 academic year. Adult education usually takes up 2 percent of the total budget.

LAUSD administrators insist that cuts need to be made to maintain class sizes acceptable at the K-12 level. Last January, John Deasy, superintendent for LAUSD, made this concern clear in a statement.

“We must do all that we can to preserve K-12 class size at acceptable levels for next year,” said Deasy.  “I, and the Los Angeles Board of Education, are left with no choice but to seriously consider massive reductions in critical areas.”

Students at the protest believe that adult education is very much tied to K-12 education. English as second language is one of the ways in which some parents are given the tools to help their children with homework and school. 

“My [7-year-old] son needs me to learn English so that I can help him with his homework and communicate with his teacher,” said Eva Tadeo, 33, a homemaker from Mexico and student at South Gate Community Adult School as she took part in the protest. “There are also at times school meetings which are only carried out in English.”

A short bilingual press conference was held after the protest and a representative from the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition stressed the important role that adult schools play in the economy.

“If adult students cannot be prepared to join the labor market, [or be] better prepared than they are now, our communities will not prosper,” Juan Jose Gutierrez, coordinator for the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition. “The consequences of our community are obvious.”

The impact that poorly funded or closed adult schools will have on the immigrant population was also highlighted by John Fernandez, who attended the event as a representative of the United Teachers of Los Angeles and Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition.

"If the shutdown materializes, U.S citizenship classes, ESL, industrial arts and vocational classes will be eliminated completely, thus, hurting the lives and futures of adult school students, [while] limiting their economic and education goals,” ” said Fernandez.

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