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La Alianza Hispana says it will fight decision by state to cut funding for ESOL programs

Posted by Patrick Rosso  September 4, 2012 04:53 PM

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La Alianza Hispana, a Roxbury based non-profit, is crying foul after the state cut off funding for its English-language learning program for new immigrants.

“This decision showed a clear disregard for adult English learners who, without these skills, remain stuck in low-paying jobs and without the necessary academic and communication skills will not be able to succeed,” read a letter distributed by the group at a press conference Tuesday.

The group contends that the classes, funded in the past through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Adult Basic Education Grants, are vital to the community and that the criteria used to rate the programs to determine which would be funded are flawed.

“They are assuming we are not meeting our criteria,” said Janet Collazo, executive director of La Alianza Hispana. “They don’t have a standardized process. Their review has been a misrepresentation.”

The group, which was one of 31 groups in Boston that submitted applications for the funding, received a score of 51.5. The lowest-scoring organization of the 22 that received funding, WAITT House Inc. of Roxbury, received a score of 62.5.

In contrast the Mattapan Family Service Center, another group that lost its funding, received a score of 60.5.

Of the 22 groups funded, 17 provide ESOL classes.

“This was a highly competitive process. Our objective was to fund the programs that are the most effective in helping students achieve their goals,” said a statement from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

La Alianza Hispana offered four levels of free ESOL programs, and many within the organization said the services are vital to helping new immigrants, especially Latinos, integrate into the community.

“You are essentially reducing the social impact of this agency,” said Joel Mitzberg, director of education for La Alianza Hispana. “It also sends a message that ESOL programs are not important.”

At Tuesday’s press conference administrators contended that the rating system fails to take into account all the good the agency, founded in 1971, has done and the diverse clientele it services.

“The process that the Department used in making its decision as to who would lose funding had extensive inaccuracies, inconsistencies and was tainted by a point-awarding system that was inequitable and misleading,” the letter reads. “This system was based on the false assumption that organizations are equal in terms of resources, student abilities and challenges, and many other factors that made the selection process flawed and misleading.”

The lowest score of an ESOL program that was funded was the International Institute of Boston with a score of 63.5.

The highest score obtained by a funded program was by the Catholic Charitable - El Centro with a score of 95.5.

La Alianza Hispana is appealing the decision and will have a hearing with DESE Sept. 11, in the hopes of reversing the decision. If the decision were to be reversed, other programs that were funded would not lose their funding.

“We are the only organization that focuses on Latinos in the area,” said Collazo. “Every single ESOL program has waiting lists, we are maxed out because DESE doesn’t invest enough in adult education. If we want the people working, if we want them studying and becoming civically engaged, the way to do that is to provide education and the first tool is their ability to learn the language.”

Email Patrick D. Rosso, Follow him @PDRosso, or friend him on Facebook.

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