View from Lodi, CA: Band-Aid Programs Overwhelmed By Immigration
May 02, 2003, 05:00 AM
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Consider today's column Part II of last week's harsh assessment of the Latino Family Literacy  class currently offered at the Lawrence School and elsewhere in California

The class first came to my attention when I read Ripley Howe's Lodi News-Sentinel story on April 10, ("New Class in Lodi aimed at teaching English, Spanish literacy to Latinos."

My column last week took a micro look at the program, criticizing it for promoting Mexican culture above American and, given its two hour a week schedule, not as good a place to learn as the Lodi Adult School which offers longer classes five days a week.

The adult school offers a dozen sections of English as a second language day and night. All are within easy walking distance from most Lodi locations.

Today I'll turn my attention to the macro view. Why are so many of these parenting classes popping up all over the country? And what can we realistically expect from them?

First, large-scale immigration from Mexico continues at an astounding pace. According to the definitive study of Mexican migration, "Immigration from Mexico" published by the Center for Immigration Studies, the Mexican immigrant population in the US increased from 800,000 in 1970 to 8 million in 2000.

The same CIS report found that two-thirds of Mexican aliens have not completed high school. Many live in poverty.

But the problem is greater than just a lack of a high school diploma. A large percentage of Mexicans living in America don't read or write Spanish.

Getting an exact count on the number of non-readers is hard. But the Yakima (WA.) Times recently referenced Carnegie Institute statistics stating that as many as half of the migrants cannot read or write in any language.

The problem is so dire that the Mexican government has developed its own program to teach literacy. Called Community Plaza (Plaza Communitaria,) Mexican consulates plan to issue certificates of completion for those who attend and "graduate."

[JOE G. NOTE TO VDARE.COM READERS: Coming soon from the local Consulate: certificates that "verify" completion of primary and high school level instruction. Will the Mexican Consulate high school certificate replace the American high school diploma and be accepted at workplaces everywhere? Anything, as we have seen, is possible.]

Let's bring the question of adult literacy back to the Lawrence School. And note that you can do this exercise in any school in the state.

Using 2001-2002 statistics from the California Department of Education , several facts stand out:

  • 73% of the Lawrence School is Hispanic. The total number of Hispanic students (467) is about 3.5 times as high as the second largest ethnic block (white students) whose enrollment is 134 or 21%

  • LUSD has a Hispanic enrollment of about 29.1% and a white enrollment of 40.2%. The Lawrence School's Hispanic population is about 2.5 times the District average but the school has only half the district average percentage of white students.

  • Of the 383 Lawrence School students that are classified as English Language Learners, 364 (95%) list Spanish as their primary language.

  • 100% of the students receive free or reduced price meals and 27% are on CalWorks, once known as AFDC.

In short, the Lawrence School–like thousands of other California schools–is poor and non-English speaking. And the very great likelihood is that the majority of the non-English speaking adults whose children attend Lawrence came to the U.S. illegally.

Analyzing more Department of Education figures called "District Trends," we see that the rate at which illegal aliens have come into LUSD over the last 15 years is substantial.

Beginning in 1987/1988 and through 2000/2001, the number of Hispanic students has increased every year. In 1987/88, the Lodi Unified School District Hispanic enrollment was 3,289 or 15.4% of total enrollment.

By 2000/2001, the totals were 7,587 students representing 27.8% of total enrollment. The largest increases have come during the last three years.

At the same time, the numbers of white students declined steadily from 13,870 (64.9%) to 11,326 (41.4%) White enrollment has either declined or remained flat in each of the last fifteen years.

African-American enrollment has increased at an approximate rate of 2% per annum, consistent with Lodi's population growth.

Band-aid programs with feel-good spins like Latino Family Literacy are not going to off-set this enormous demographic shift occurring right under our eyes.

The cultural changes that are turning our schools upside down are not inevitable. They are created by neglect and indifference to our own children's needs.

California cannot deal with the huge number of new non-English speaking students without watering down the quality of education that native-born Americans and legal immigrants receive.

We should examine why we need so many special language programs.

Or do we already know the answer but lack the courage to tackle the issue head-on?

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.