View from Lodi, CA: Band-Aid Programs Overwhelmed By Immigration

Consider today`s column Part II of last week`s

harsh assessment
of the

Latino Family Literacy
 class currently offered at
the Lawrence School and elsewhere in California

The class first came to my attention when I read
Ripley Howe`s Lodi News-Sentinel story on April
10, (“New
Class in Lodi aimed at teaching English, Spanish
literacy to Latinos.”

My column last week took a micro look at the program,
criticizing it for promoting Mexican culture above
American and, given its two hour a week schedule, not as
good a place to learn as the

Lodi Adult School
which offers longer classes five
days a week.

The adult school offers a dozen sections of

English as a second language
day and night. All are
within easy walking distance from most Lodi locations.

Today I`ll turn my attention to the macro view. Why
are so many of these parenting classes popping up all
over the country? And what can we realistically expect
from them?

First, large-scale immigration from Mexico continues
at an astounding pace. According to the definitive study
of Mexican migration,

“Immigration from Mexico”
published by the

Center for Immigration Studies
, the Mexican
immigrant population in the US increased from 800,000 in
1970 to 8 million in 2000.

The same CIS report found that two-thirds of Mexican
aliens have not completed high school. Many live in


But the problem is greater than just a lack of a

high school diploma.
A large percentage of Mexicans
living in America don`t

read or write Spanish.

Getting an exact count on the number of non-readers
is hard. But the Yakima (WA.) Times
recently referenced Carnegie Institute statistics
stating that as many as half of the migrants cannot read
or write in any language.

The problem is so dire that the Mexican government
has developed its own

to teach literacy. Called Community
Plaza (Plaza Communitaria,) Mexican consulates

to issue certificates of completion for those
who attend and “graduate.”


Coming soon from the local Consulate: certificates
that “verify” completion of primary and high school
level instruction. Will the Mexican Consulate high
school certificate replace the American high school
diploma and be accepted at workplaces everywhere?
Anything, as we have seen, is


Let`s bring the question of adult literacy back to
the Lawrence School. And note that you can do this
exercise in any school in the state.

Using 2001-2002 statistics from the

California Department of Education
, several facts
stand out:

  • 73% of the Lawrence School is Hispanic. The total
    number of Hispanic students (467) is about 3.5 times
    as high as the second largest ethnic block (white
    students) whose enrollment is 134 or 21%

  • LUSD has a Hispanic enrollment of about 29.1% and
    a white enrollment of 40.2%. The Lawrence School`s
    Hispanic population is about 2.5 times the District
    average but the school has only half the district
    average percentage of white students.

  • Of the 383 Lawrence School students that are
    classified as English Language Learners, 364 (95%)
    list Spanish as their primary language.

  • 100% of the students receive free or reduced price
    meals and 27% are on CalWorks, once known as AFDC.

In short, the Lawrence School–like thousands of other
California schools–is poor and non-English speaking. And
the very great likelihood is that the majority of the
non-English speaking adults whose children attend
Lawrence came to the U.S. illegally.

Analyzing more Department of Education figures called
“District Trends,” we see that the rate at which illegal
aliens have come into LUSD over the last 15 years is

Beginning in 1987/1988 and through 2000/2001, the
number of Hispanic students has increased every year. In
1987/88, the Lodi Unified School District Hispanic
enrollment was 3,289 or 15.4% of total enrollment.

By 2000/2001, the totals were 7,587 students
representing 27.8% of total enrollment. The largest
increases have come during the last three years.

At the same time, the numbers of white students
declined steadily from 13,870 (64.9%) to 11,326 (41.4%)
White enrollment has either declined or remained flat in
each of the last fifteen years.

African-American enrollment has increased at an
approximate rate of 2% per annum, consistent with Lodi`s
population growth.

Band-aid programs with feel-good spins like Latino
Family Literacy are not going to off-set this enormous
demographic shift occurring right under our eyes.

The cultural changes that are turning our schools
upside down are not inevitable. They are created by
neglect and indifference to our own children`s needs.

California cannot deal with the huge number of new
non-English speaking students without watering down the
quality of education that native-born Americans and
legal immigrants receive.

We should examine why we need so many

special language programs.

Or do we already know the answer but lack the courage
to tackle the issue head-on?

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English
at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly
column since 1988. It currently appears in the

Lodi News-Sentinel