BY LEVAR ALONZO
More than 100 Queens residents boisterously rallied in front of Queens Borough Hall on Tuesday to call for Mayor Bill de Blasio to protect the city’s adult literacy programs.
Chanting “Education is a right, budget cuts are wrong” and “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho, budget cuts have got to go,” the crowd waved signs that read, “We need English for jobs” and “Immigrants have built the USA.” The rally marks the beginning of a month of borough-based protests, during which thousands of New Yorkers will come together to advocate for continued funding for adult literacy.
According to the New York City Coalition for Adult Literacy (NYCCAL)—a group of nonprofit community-based organizations, colleges and advocacy groups that provide English language and other adult literacy programs—the mayor’s fiscal year 2019 preliminary budget contains a $12 million funding reduction that would eliminate literacy classes for students throughout the city.
The adults in the various programs—many of whom are immigrants and include first- to fifth-year students—all echoed the sentiment that the English literacy programs help them to better themselves and be contributing members in their communities.
“United Neighborhood Houses (UNH) is deeply disappointed that the mayor’s FY2019 preliminary budget does not contain $12 million in funding for community-based adult literacy programs,” said Kevin Douglas, the co-director of policy and advocacy for UNH. “From helping the newest New Yorkers develop the English skills they need to succeed in our city to providing young adults that never finished high school a second chance at earning their diploma, adult literacy classes are the on-ramp to opportunity for thousands of New Yorkers.”
NYCCAL cited that one-third of the entire adult population of New York City—which is approximately 2.2 million individuals—lack English proficiency and/or a high school diploma.
Aracely Toldo, who has been taking English classes for more than a year at Make the Road New York in Jackson Heights, said she hopes that the mayor will not cut funding for the programs. She wants to be able to continue her education to better her community and find a good job.