OAKLAND -- Amid a Chinese New Year celebration on Tuesday, students and administration in the Family Literacy Program at Allendale Elementary tried to stay optimistic as they face a possible program closure.
Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed budget will move state funding for adult education away from K-12 school districts and into the community colleges, which would affect about 200 students in the program.
"There's too many people committed to this program; they'll find a way to keep it going," said Councilwoman Libby Shaaf, who attended the celebration along with Mayor Jean Quan and school board member Rosie Torres.
Family Literacy is more than what is typically offered at other adult education programs. In addition to teaching English as a second language to immigrant parents, who speak languages including Spanish and Arabic, teachers at the program also provide skills instruction.
These skills include being able to communicate in and out of the classroom, whether at the doctor's office or at a parent-teacher conference. Their children, who are students at Allendale Elementary School, are the main focus. The ultimate goal is to teach the parents how to be part of their children's success in school.
To do that, the parents regularly visit their children's classes to see how they are learning so they and their children can engage in conversation. Parents are also taught what their children may be learning so they can be there as a resource if help is needed with homework.
At the Chinese New Year celebration, guests stopped by to wish everyone a happy New Year and take part in eating catered Chinese food. A kindergarten class also stopped by with students dressed as a giant red dragon that they made themselves. The dragon wove through the celebration as the children timidly played little instruments and sang¿.
"We've always tried to acknowledge the important ceremonial days because there's very good research evidence that immigrants are very proud of where they come from," Marilyn Noble, a teacher at Family Literacy, said.
"So we've decided to do the Chinese New Year as a recognition of tradition since in the past we've done events like Cinco de Mayo."
Ray Bermudez, the regional family engagement liaison in Oakland schools, feels there is a missed opportunity in moving these adult education programs to community colleges.
"It has the most successful classrooms in Oakland. The classes are always full, and (parents) have been able to get more involved in school," he said.
The item may come up Wednesday at the Oakland Unified School District board meeting.
Family Literacy is one of the few remaining adult education programs left in Oakland, and parents in this program have been informed of the possible closure.
"It would be so sad and terrible if (the program) stops because all these parents need this class," said Monica Lazcon, a parent in the program since 2008.
Emigrating from Jalisco, Mexico, in 2004, Lazcon couldn't speak any English. She has a daughter who attends Allendale, and after taking classes through Family Literacy, she feels more confident speaking English and helping her daughter with her homework. She hopes the program continues because it's helped her to be more involved in the school.
Maria Mares, also a student in the program, said the parents have considered fundraising ideas to keep Family Literacy at Allendale.
"If we have to pay a fee to still have the classes, I think most of the parents would do it," Mares said. "I think mothers won't be as involved in school and will be less comfortable with teachers or talking to the principal if it's canceled. They won't even be able to help with their own children."