Cuts Put ESL Programs at Risk

Learning English is key to joining the workforce, but immigrant advocates are worried that the economic crisis is threatening English as a second language programs. WNYC's Siddhartha Mitter reports.

REPORTER: Programs that offer ESL classes in the city are typically oversubscribed. The Queens Library ESL program serves over 3,000 students but has to turn away just as many.

At the Arab American Family Support Center in Brooklyn, Executive Director Lena Alhusseini says demand for all services is up about 30 percent from last year, but funding is down also by about 30 percent. She's making contingency plans.

ALHUSSEINI: ESL is a critical program - that's the only way many of my community, the immigrant community that I serve, are going to be able to go out and get jobs. Are they going to survive without English? there's no way they're going to survive without English. So you have to think long term, you can't think short term.

REPORTER: Many ESL providers get money from the city through its adult literacy program. Mayor Bloomberg's preliminary budget doesn't cut these funds, but city officials say it's too soon to know how much funding ESL providers can expect next fiscal year. For WNYC I'm Siddhartha Mitter.