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Students Urge $16 million Investment in Adult Literacy Services


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Press Contact: Kevin Douglas, United Neighborhood Houses; Betsy Plum, New York Immigration Coalition; Sasha Kesler, UJA-Federation of New York,  Main Phone: 860-336-6401; 585-739-9922;425-289-6519, 
New York  (Thursday, April 7, 2016)

Students Urge $16 million Investment in Adult Literacy Services

Advocates Say Literacy Is the Key to Social Integration in NYC

New York, NY. Adult literacy students and advocates gathered on the City Hall steps in the rain and wind to encourage Mayor de Blasio to invest $16 million in adult literacy services. Hundreds of other students waited outside of security, but were unfortunately turned away. Students thanked the Mayor for his leadership in pioneering social inclusion for immigrants through programs such as IDNYC and ActionNYC and urged him to build on this legacy and create comprehensive adult literacy program for the 1.7 million adult New Yorkers currently lacking English proficiency and/or a high school diploma. Literacy programs are the pathway to economic mobility, social integration, parent-child engagement, improved health outcomes and improved community safety. Advocates said that strengthening adult literacy programs and building a well-coordinated adult literacy system offers the Mayor a unique opportunity to continue his progress in fighting inequality, improving our workforce, and ensuring long-term success for universal pre-Kindergarten.

Council Member Carlos Menchaca began with rally with a call for inclusion. “The full potential of New York City’s immigrant communities will not be unlocked until we ensure everyone has at least basic literacy skills. Service providers throughout the City need a renewed and expanded financial commitment from this City Council and the Administration. I stand with all immigrant New Yorkers and their advocates calling for adequate funding and support for adult literacy.”

Council Member Julissa Ferreras- Copeland, Chair of the Finance Committee, offered her support for a $16 million investment adult literacy. “Adult literacy funding is a priority for myself and many other Councilmembers. Our Budget Response called for a $16 million investment this fiscal year. These critical services like ESL classes lead to better paying jobs and improved communication with teachers and doctors, among many other benefits. There is an overwhelming need and an already established infrastructure to deliver these services, if the City is able to provide resources. I applaud Councilmember Menchaca, other councilmembers, and all the organizations lifting their voices to show how essential this is to addressing inequality.”

“Adult literacy education is literally a game changer for thousands of non-English speaking families in New York City,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, who learned English as a second language after arriving in NYC in 1983 at 18 years old. “While we must continue to strengthen language access across the city, residents still struggle to fully acclimate when they are not proficient in English. Investing in our adult literacy courses will help so many hard working New Yorkers advance and improve their careers.”

Council Member Koo added, “Adult literacy classes are especially important to new immigrants who rely on these services to learn English speaking, reading and writing. We are an immigrant city, and we must provide the necessary support to ensure our newest New Yorkers are fully equipped to enter the work force. I am proud to stand with my colleagues today in support of fully funding these important services.”

Emphasizing the importance of these services in his district, Council Member Mark Levine said, “Only 4% of the 1.7 million people in New York City who need basic adult education services are able to obtain classes. We must support all adults in New York City in achieving their educational goals that will propel their careers and allow them to support their families.”
Council Member Margaret Chin joined colleagues in urging the Administration in invest in adult literacy. “By renewing and expanding funding for adult literacy programs, we are enabling millions of New Yorkers to be fully integrated into the economic and civic life of our City. I thank the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy, as well as the many students, teachers, and elected officials who are fighting to make quality, comprehensive and accessible education available to New Yorkers in need.”

Council Member Costa Constantinides said, "I join the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy in calling to restore funding for vital literacy education. Literacy provides us with the opportunity to participate in our community and civic life. Every member of our community, whether learning English as a second language or a native English-speaker, deserves access to educational programming that improves literacy skills and expands job opportunities. I thank NYCCAL for fighting for these vital resources for our neighborhood."

Several students in attendance shared how adult literacy classes have positively impacted and improved their lives. "Our City was built by people who came here without knowing the English language. We are the heart of this City and our City is stronger because of us. I study English so that I can help my children be successful in school. I hope our City provides the funding we need to help more people like me learn English." Lucia Diaz Aguirre ESOL student Make the Road New York

ESOL Student, Xiu Wen Ou in the Educational Alliance College Access and Success Program stated, “My family has started planting roots in America. I hope to continue to learn English and give back to this great country. It makes me sad to think I may not have an opportunity to do so.”

Associate Vice President for Family and Community Partnerships at Educational Alliance, Stacy Li, added to her student’s comments, “We need to cut down the barriers to family and economic success and not eliminate the funding that helps make this success possible. When we help low-income adults access education, we help them better support and encourage the education of their children. This has a profound impact on generations of families and entire communities”

"Allowing adults the opportunity to learn is good for communities and great for our city. If an individual learns English, they can communicate with their neighbors, help their children with their homework, get a better job, and call 911 without fear if they're in trouble," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition. "We ask our Mayor and the City of New York to ensure support for a robust and well-coordinated adult literacy system with an investment of $16 million dollars in the Executive Budget. Not only will it help New York City stand out as a leader in immigrant integration nationally, but it will underscore and support the long-term success of key mayoral priorities including an improved workforce, universal pre-Kindergarten, and the greater fight against inequality."

“For more than 100 years, settlement houses have welcomed immigrants and provided access to free English-language classes, civics education and preparation for citizenship exams. Believing that education is the key to success, settlement houses also help adult learners earn their high school equivalency diploma,” said Susan Stamler, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses of New York. “We urge Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to invest $16 million in adult literacy to begin to grow these critical programs in our communities. This should serve as the down payment on robust adult literacy system that allows anyone who wants to learn English or earn a high school diploma an opportunity to do so. We all win when adults can actively participate in civic life, help their children to succeed in school and advance in their careers"

Sasha Kesler of UJA-Federation of New York spoke about the Jewish value of supporting the stranger and serving immigrant communities: Adult literacy services are essential to ensure that immigrants are able to support their families, find sustainable employment, and integrate into the social fabric of New York City. For nearly 100 years, UJA-Federation of New York’s network of human service agencies have supported adult learners in earning High School Equivalency diplomas and to obtain the technical language skills to ensure workforce success. We encourage Mayor de Blasio and the City Council to invest $16 million in adult literacy services to help meet the needs of 1.7 million New Yorkers who lack basic English education. This investment will be the building blocks towards building a city where every resident is able to support their children with homework, engage in civic life, and build a career.

The Arab-American Family Support Center noted the importance of culturally-competent and community based services. “Adult literacy is a crucial service for the Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and south Asian immigrants of New York City, reducing social isolation and increasing overall community engagement. Amidst these troubling times of Islamophobia, we must support adult education opportunities and show these communities that we value their well-being as fellow New Yorkers and respect their drive to improve their lives and the lives of their families. I truly believe that this will ultimately lead to a healthier and more vibrant city” said Lena Alhusseini, Executive Director

Also participating in the rally and speaking in strong support: Council Member Ritchie Torres, Council Member Alan Maisel, Council Member Mark Treyger, and Council Member Inez Barron.

Pictures available at #LiteracyLiftsNYC on Twitter & Facebook


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