Immigrants facing long wait to get into English language classes
July 26, 2005
PHOENIX - At adult education programs throughout Arizona, the demand for English language classes is so great that immigrants often wait months to get in.
Six hundred people are studying English this summer through classes offered by the Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County. About 100 more people are on a waiting list.
Demand for English classes is even higher during the rest of the year, said Margaret Quintana, the agency's learning center director.
At times, the agency has had as many as 500 people waiting to get into an English class, according to Quintana.
"It's easy to live your life in Arizona in Spanish, but to really succeed you need English," Quintana said.
This summer, 283 people are enrolled in eight English classes at the Phoenix non-profit organization and additional 213 people are on the waiting list to get in, said Luis Enriquez, director of adult education and workforce development at Friendly House.
Next month, when the school year begins, the agency will add 13 more English classes at five school districts around the Phoenix metropolitan area - enough to serve an additional 2,600 people.
Statewide, there are 36 adult education programs offering English classes.
A 2004 study by the Arizona Department of Education found that 5,009 adults were on a waiting list to get into English classes and that an additional 5,686 were turned away. Statewide, about 18,000 adults who wanted to learn English enrolled in classes through adult education programs.
The study identified 445,000 adults, without high school diplomas, who didn't speak English very well, the target population for English classes.
"One of my goals has been to reduce the waiting lists," state schools Superintendent Tom Horne said. "If people are desirous of learning English, they should start right away. They shouldn't have to wait. It hampers people in the job market, and (it) hampers their ability to help their children in school."
Horne said that for two years in a row he fought off efforts by the Legislature to reduce the $3 million the state spends on English and adult literacy classes. The state also receives about $9 million from the federal government to pay for English classes, he said.
Next year, he plans to ask for more money to fund English classes and for authorization to charge fees.