An estimated 850,000 adults in the Greater Chicago area have limited English competency skills, according to Literacy Chicago. With many of their children in English-speaking public schools, this creates a huge problem for Chicago schools.
Parents may not need the English communication skills on the job, but without the ability to speak in English, they are unable to communicate with teachers and other parents, as well as their children. One example:
Although Maximina Esteban’s work as a house cleaner does not require her to speak English, her duty as a single mother of two sons does.
Born and raised in Chicago, Esteban’s children, 11 and 7, spend most of their days at school speaking English rather than Spanish.
Despite her attempts to get them to speak Spanish at home, they reply in English, especially her younger son. He understands very little Spanish and rarely uses it with his mother.
Literacy Chicago, which provides free English language training to adults, had their federal funding reduced by 13% for the 2010 fiscal year. They anticipate greater cuts in 2011. Other organizations with English literacy programs are facing similar cuts.
Explains Medill Reports of Northwestern University, “This threat of budget cutbacks makes immigrant parents particularly vulnerable. With fewer opportunities for free English instruction, they will continue to struggle to communicate with their children and their teachers.”
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