Migrant Report Criticizes Texas: State Lags in Teaching Newcomers English
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Report Criticizes Texas: State Lags in Teaching Newcomers English
August 3, 2007
Dianne Solis -- The Dallas Morning News
While Texas may be a top destination for immigrants, it spends very little
to assimilate them via English-language education, says a report released
Florida and California spend $8 and $7 for every federal dollar they
receive, while Texas spends 30 cents, says the report by the Migration
Policy Institute of Washington, D.C.
The study's authors call English acquisition "arguably the most important
integration challenge and opportunity" for city, state and federal
governments with large immigrant populations. In North Texas, that is
particularly true. One out of four people in Dallas is foreign-born; in
Irving, one out of three is foreign-born.
"Texas stands out for being a state for such large immigration and such low
investment in immigrants," said Margie McHugh, one of the report's authors
at the research organization. "Investing in immigrants' education has such a
powerful payoff," the researcher said, ticking off such benefits as job
productivity and increased pay.
Lori Ruiz, the policy coordinator for Texas Learns, the subcontractor for
state adult education and family literacy, said the state program is
"grossly underfunded, ridiculously underfunded."
In the last 20 years, when immigrants, legal and illegal, have swept through
the state, funding has remained level, she noted.
Ms. Ruiz had no dispute with the California-to-Texas comparisons within the
Migration Policy Institute report.
The report said more funding could come from three sources: employers,
existing Social Security taxes, and the expansion of such federal programs
as the family literacy-focused Even Start.
"Employers stand to gain the most from immigrants improving their English
language skills," Ms. McHugh said. "Many are asking what is an appropriate
contribution from employers."
In Dallas, restaurateur Tom Landis said he believes employers should
shoulder the burden for workers. He provides English classes for workers.
"If it were an accounting issue, you would never turn it over to the
government," Mr. Landis said.
The Migration Policy Institute proposes that funding for English classes
come from Social Security taxes believed to be paid by illegal immigrants.
For years, the Social Security Administration has kept track of wages that
come from false or mismatched Social Security numbers.
Nearly $600 billion in wages were recorded from 1937 through 2004 on these
numbers, the report notes. And, in general, about 6.2 percent in Social
Security tax was paid on the wages. The Migration Policy Institute estimates
that there is about $30 billion in Social Security contributions from
illegal immigrants flowing into federal coffers.
In North Texas, scores of churches provide English classes. Among them is
the Duncanville Trinity Church of the Nazarene, which opens its doors on
Tuesday nights to immigrants. "We just want to help the cause and help the
people learn our language," said Jim Farmer, a church layman. "Well, it is
not our language. It belongs to the world."
*Source:* Copyright (c) 2007, The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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