Mountain View Voice

News - April 24, 2009

Next in line to be cut: ESL class at Castro

by Casey Weiss

More than 100 parents and teachers are petitioning to save an English language program they say has helped dozens of Latino parents get more involved in the community.

For the last several years the Mountain View-Los Altos and Mountain View Whisman school districts have collaborated to offer a free English as a Second Language (ESL) class at Castro Elementary School for local parents. Most of the parents drop their kids off at Castro, then spend the morning learning English vocabulary and grammar, which in turn helps them contribute to their children's education.

But due to steep budget cuts, the class may be terminated at the end of the school year.

Until now the elementary school district provided the classroom rent-free five days a week for three hours, and MVLA's Adult School contributed financially to a Castro preschool program, where many of the students leave their children. But in the current fiscal climate, the Adult School cannot provide more funding, school officials said. And elementary school district administrators say that they cannot offer the classroom space for free anymore.

Because of these setbacks — and since the Adult School can't afford the $15 an hour for the class — teacher Kit Miller said the high school district will have to end the ESL course. Miller started a petition to keep the class which now has 111 teacher and parent signatures.

"We see this as a bi-district project," Miller said. "We can't keep paying for it."

The Adult School is already cutting back teachers and programs as it faces $1.3 million in budget cuts through June 2010. In its current budget proposal, the Adult School plans to cut over 40 percent from ESL programs, according to director Laura Stefanski.

Since the Adult School withdrew funding, the rules dictate that the elementary school district must begin charging the class as an outside group, according to chief financial officer Craig Goldman.

"We understand there have been significant cuts to the Adult School," Goldman said. "We see a need to comply with the law. Otherwise what would stop any other group from expecting the space for free?"

Miller said many of the petition signers were planning to attend the elementary school district's board of trustees meeting on Thursday, April 23 to speak about the importance of the class. She said the district should continue providing the classroom because the course helps so many district families.

"Our Castro School class is part of our key mission to reach immigrants who are poor," Miller said. "Mountain View is benefiting from having these parents becoming involved."

Maura Garbuza, a student in the class who has two daughters at Castro, signed the petition, and said the course has helped her become conversational in English. She can now help her daughter with her homework.

"I want to learn. It is important," Garbuza said. "I want to communicate with people when I go to the doctor with my kids."

The Adult School campus, across town on Moffett Boulevard, also offers English classes, but Miller said none of them are specifically for parents. And it is hard for many of the parents, who don't have cars, to get to these classes.

Rosa, another student in the class who did not want her last name used, said she does not have time to commute by bus to Moffett Boulevard every day. She drops her three children off at Castro in the morning, and needs to be back by 11:15 a.m. to pick the youngest up from preschool.

"It's too far for me since I have to walk or take the bus," she said.

Miller said Rosa is not alone, and many parents would stop their English education altogether if the class were cancelled.

"If I don't stand up for this class who will," Miller said.

The high school district's board of trustees will discuss the cuts during their meeting on April 27, and make a final decision on May 11.

Proposed cuts to Adult School programs

High school district trustees will meet Monday to begin cutting $1.3 million from the Adult School in the 2009-10 academic year. A final decision will be made May 11. Below are some Adult School programs facing the biggest cuts:

• Adults with disabilities: Instructional hours will be reduced 45 percent, including elimination of classes at two of three sites.

• ESL and citizenship: Instructional hours will be reduced 44 percent, resulting in fewer classes.

• Vocational program: All classes that do not lead to certification for employment will be eliminated, a total of more than 800 instructional hours.

• Older adults: All classes will become fee-based and self-supporting by July 1. Programs providing outreach to convalescent homes in the area may be dropped by June 30.

• High School Diploma and GED: Adult high school diploma program will be reduced in size "with a stronger emphasis on adults working toward their GED certificate," according to director Laura Stefanski. The Adult School will continue to offer instructional services to concurrently enrolled students from the comprehensive high school sites, but take fewer referrals due to reduced program staffing.

• Grants: Reduced funding expected for the Even Start Family Literacy Grant, CAL-SAFE Grant for young teen parents and CalWORKs Grant for adults on public assistance.

• Fee-based classes: Expected to stay intact if they meet minimum enrollment requirements and are self-supporting.

E-mail Casey Weiss at


Posted by just thinkin, a resident of Castro City
on Apr 25, 2009 at 11:59 pm

If we enforced our immigration laws and demanded that employers used E-Verify, then we would not need ESL classes in our schools. Illegal immigrants need a tremendous amount of resources and our country can no longer afford to provide all the services illegal immigrants need.

Illegal immigrants are overcrowding our schools, our health care system, our housing, our emergency services, our jails, etc. Illegal immigrants are also taking scarce jobs that US citizens desperately need to survive. We need to enforce our immigration laws at every level!

Posted by Sacrifice and succeed, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Apr 26, 2009 at 10:19 pm

Obviously the "free" English as a Second Language (ESL) class at Castro Elementary School for local parents isn't free. The Mountain View elementary district is short $2.6 million for the next 17 months. The high school district faces $2 million in reductions over the next 17 months, and approximately $1.3 million of this will come from the Adult School. Kit Miller a teacher started a petition to keep and continue the ESL class at Castro Elementary School. How will a petition create funds that aren't there from the school districts?

In the MV-Voice report a student, who currently attends the "free" ESL class, says she has no time to commute by bus to Moffett Boulevard every day. The student said, "She drops her three children off at Castro in the morning, and needs to be back by 11:15 a.m. to pick the youngest up from preschool". Why doesn't this particular parent/student show by example to her children how important a "free" education is by making sacrifices and attend classes at the Adult School campus. Rosa is the epitome of the Latino/Latina educational gap that exists in America. If school is too hard, don't attend. This country offers the tools to succeed, it's up to each individual to access and use the tools to succeed.

I am an immigrant to the U.S.A and I came to this country with the hopes that my hard work, determination and sacrifices will benefit my family. It has! The hardships my family and I endured to educate ourselves make the successes we have sweeter.

Posted by USA1, a resident of another community
on Apr 27, 2009 at 8:39 am

People have an opportunity every day to learn the language. If someone wants to do it, they will.
Maybe next year I will go to Mexico and see if they have any SSL classes so I can learn at the expense of someone else's government.
Yeah, that will happen...

Posted by Robin Iwai, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Apr 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm

The question was why, if MVLA high school district pulls their funding, would the MVWSD need to consider a group of parents whose children attend Castro School an "outside group" and start charging them a fee for facility usage?

I searched the MVWSD board by-laws online and couldn't find anything that says a fee must be charged. I asked this question and am still hoping for an answer.

And could we please leave 'illegal immigrant" out of the discussion? That's like me accusing you of cheating on your income taxes without ever having checked to find out if you did or not. Last time I checked, no one had "exceeds speed limit" or "cheats on taxes" or "entered country illegally" stamped on their forehead, so how do you know all this?

From the file of "you can't have it both ways...." you can't complain that people don't want to learn English, and then complain when they DO want to learn English.

Posted by can't have it both ways, a resident of North Whisman
on Apr 27, 2009 at 3:32 pm

Robin aren't you asking to have it both ways? Illegal immigrants are here ILLEGALY? When a speeder exceeds the posted speed limit and caught doing so they are punished with an expensive violation ticket. When someone files taxes improperly they are punished by a fine. Your examples of a "scarlet letter" pertaining to illegal immigrants is pretty weak at best. If a car jacker stole your car, would it be called "undocumented automobile transfer"?

Since you are the Board President of the MV Day Worker Center, it doesn't surprise me that you request to not use "illegal immigrant" in any discussion. I do agree with you on this point, you can't have it both ways.

Posted by Mr. Payback, a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 1, 2009 at 11:34 am

When will we learn, take care of our own first. INS do your job.

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