Education Is Our Right. Or Is It?

Adult literacy is a critical issue in our city, and in our nation. New York City is comprised of immigrants from all over the world. Immigrants are the heart of our city. English may be the primary language, but with more people from other countries, languages such as Spanish and Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese) are just as primary. Yet, English remains the pathway to communication, education, and employment. English as a Second Language (ESL) programs have helped many adult learners study English. It has also helped them obtain their GED, high school diploma, or college degree.

While learning English, they can participate in job readiness training and citizenship classes. Being literate is not limited to learning the English language. Financial literacy helps immigrants learn our financial system, and protects them from fraud and identity theft. These programs are an asset to our city, and are open to anyone who can benefit from them. Sadly, this may not continue to be the case.

Budget cuts have made it difficult to keep these programs running. It is estimated that 7,000 classroom seats won’t be available to anyone who wants to learn English if this year’s proposed cuts are made. According to Mayor Bloomberg’s city budget, $7 million will be cut from adult literacy programs. With continuous cutbacks in ESL, GED, and citizenship classes, adult learners are left stranded. An adult literacy rally is held at City Hall every year to protect against these cuts. This week’s rally, organized by the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy, was no exception. “Education is our right,” the crowd chanted, holding colorful signs that read, “Restore adult literacy!” The statement made by the large crowd of students, teachers, and advocates was loud and clear. Council members often speak at these rallies, showing support for this important cause.

Budget cuts to adult literacy programs limit our right to education—a right that impacts every New Yorker.