English-Language Teachers Fear Loss Of Educational Services
Honolulu--Federal budget cuts and block grants will complicate the already-difficult job of teaching English to refugees, will cause conflicts between states with varying policies, and will force immigrants to compete with other needy students for limited funds, according to English-language educators meeting here last week.
"The report at this convention is that there will be no more refugee help," said Darlene Larson, the newly installed president of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (tesol), the 10,000-member professional organization for elementary-, secondary-, and higher-education language teachers and linguistics researchers. "If anything is done for the refugees," she said, "it will all be at the initiative of the state."
Funding a Major Concern
A major concern of the 2,600 teachers, administrators, and other tesol members attending the convention is the federal government's phase-out of funds earmarked for refugee services, Ms. Larson said.
The Reagan Administration did not request an allocation for the refugee-assistance program in the fiscal 1983 budget proposal, which means that more than $22 million allocated for services to refugee children during fiscal 1982 has been eliminated.
Now the professionals running such programs will "have to compete with people who have been their friends and allies," she said.
"They have to go grab money from the handicapped."
Ms. Larson said she was told by one teacher at the convention that immigrants in his state had been advised by a social worker to move to California, where they could receive better benefits.
"That's how some states are going to handle it," she said.
tesol members believe that language courses may be the most important service for refugees, but now those programs will be "splintered" among states.
Teachers who attended the meeting will try to reach the right agencies in their states to preserve those program funds, Ms. Larson said. But, she warned, "Each state is different. Some teachers are going to have someone to turn to; some won't know what hit them."
"It was tough enough before; now the block grants are going to make it even tougher," said J. David Edwards, director of the Joint National Committee for Languages, which represents 18 organizations concerned with the teaching of languages.
These teachers are also concerned about funding cuts for bilingual-education programs, he said.
Bilingual programs suffered a 41-percent cut from the 1981 appropriations level of about $161 million to about $95 million under the Administration's 1983 budget proposal.
Not only is Washington reducing the funds available for bilingual education, but many educators fear that the federal government will withdraw completely from its involvement in the area, Mr. Edwards added.
James E. Alatis, tesol executive secretary, said the Administration may be "looking to quick solutions" in deciding not to promulgate guidelines governing bilingual education and, instead, allowing school districts to set their own policies.
"They're copping out when they say that whatever you offer as an alternative to bilingual is good," he said.
Administration Seeking 'Cheap Labor'
tesol members are worried that "anybody off the street who knows English will be dubbed an e.s.l. [English-as-a-Second-Language] teacher,'' he said. "The Administration is looking for cheap labor."
tesol has supported requirements--including state certification--for specialized teachers of non-native English speakers.
Mr. Alatis, who is dean of the School of Languages and Linguistics at Georgetown University, said the convention participants also oppose cuts in international English-language programs.
About 24 percent of tesol's 10,000 members live abroad, and there is increasing emphasis on English as a "world language," Mr. Alatis said. But the number of English-language specialists employed by the federal government has decreased dramatically, he said.
The U.S. International Communication Agency now employs only 19 such specialists, and only six are stationed abroad, according to Mr. Alatis.