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Funds Needed For Immigrants, Committee Told

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Washington--At a recent Congressional hearing held in Los Angeles, a representative of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service backed California education officials' contention that the state should earmark more funds to help schools cope with the flood of newly legalized adult immigrants seeking educational services.

California is home to more than half of the 2.7 million immigrants eligible for permanent-resident status under the new immigration law passed in 1986. But education officials there have been fighting since 1987 for more of the state's share of federal State Legalization Impact Assistance Grants.

More recently, they have argued that more of the education funds already earmarked should be available in the current year, as enrollments in English-language and other courses have exceeded expectations. (See Education Week, Nov. 16, 1988.)

At the Nov. 30 hearing, Shirley Thornton, a deputy superintendent in the state education department, told the House Education and Labor Committee that while about 500,000 adult learners were anticipated over the course of the 1988-89 school year because of the law's impact, two-thirds of that number were already enrolled within the first three months of the school year.

The 1986 federal amnesty law requires aliens seeking legalization to complete a basic citizenship and English-language course within 18 months of the date they applied for amnesty.

"Preliminary data suggest that not only are there increased numbers of immigrants enrolling in programs, but they are staying in the programs and not leaving after the minimum required hours of instruction," Ms. Thornton said.

"In any other arena of education this would be a success story, but currently, it is causing a utilization of services beyond that currently budgeted for education," she said.

Harold W. Ezell, regional commissioner of the ins, joined the education officials in asking the committee to press for additional education funding.

"Our independent assessment of the available sliag budget for education indicates a severe shortfall of funds," Mr. Ezell said.

He urged the panel to "assess the statewide allocation of all sliag funds to ensure that the [California] department is provided all necessary funding to meet the need," and to continue monitoring the progress of California and other states in providing education aid.

Of the $1.7 billion in sliag funds allocated to California, $351 million is earmarked for education, including $8.4 million meant to help elementary and secondary schools serve students participating in the amnesty program. The remainder is slated to pay for health and welfare services for the legalized immigrants.

The amnesty law requires states to spend at least 10 percent of their sliag funds in each of the three areas. It limits education spending to $500 per eligible immigrant, but otherwise gives states discretion over how to use the money.

California education officials unsuccessfully sought more restrictive rules for the sliag program.--jm

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