Queens lawmaker fights to increase Adult Literacy Education program funding in 2020 budget

Photo courtesy of State Assemblyman Ron Kim’s office

State Assemblyman Ron Kim and community leaders in Flushing are calling for increased funding for Adult Literacy Education (ALE) programs in New York.  

Adult Literacy Education programs in New York are essential services that teach adults the reading, writing and communication skills needed to find employment, continue their education and engage with their children and families. 

On Feb. 20, Kim visited one of the very few ALE programs at the Chinese-American Planning Council (CPC) with representatives from Senator Jessica Ramos’s office and Lena Cohen from United Neighborhood Houses. 

Assemblyman Kim and his daughter meet with newly enrolled students in a ALE course at CPC.

Kim has pushed to increase New York State ALE funding for much of his time in the state Legislature, where he has partnered frequently with colleagues such as Assembly members Patricia Fahy and Yuh-Line Niou to spearhead the issue. 

“There are countless New Yorkers who are ready and willing to improve their language proficiency and develop the communication skills and literacy they need to start a career, better provide for their families and thrive in our city and state,” Kim said. “There is a huge gap in unmet public need for these services, and I believe fully funding that gap as an essential community investment would pay off many times over in terms of a net positive fiscal, economic and social impact.”

Organizations such as United Neighborhood Houses and the CPC have sought to address this deficiency by urging the inclusion of $25 million for ALE in the annual state budget. It’s a modest investment within the overall New York state budget, which exceeded $170 billion in the most recent fiscal year, that they say would bring outsize returns from a better educated, empowered and far more engaged workforce.

Lilian Kong, a student enrolled in an ALE course with CPC, speaks on her experiences with the program.

There is a waitlist of more than 50,000 eligible adults for these services, according to the CPC. 

“English language courses support New Yorkers’ ability to fully partake in the economic, social and civic aspects of our society, but there is not nearly enough funding to meet demand,” said Cohen, a policy analyst at United Neighborhood Houses. “Right now, settlement houses and other adult literacy providers can only offer courses to 3 percent of the New Yorkers who need them. We are grateful that Assembly member Kim understands this dire funding gap and hope that his colleagues in the state Legislature will come together to invest $25 million in adult literacy programs this year.”

According to Wayne Ho, president and CEO of the CPC, ALE programs are a critical starting point for Asian American an Pacific Islander immigrants to New York, over 80 percent of whom are Limited English Proficient. 

They create access to better jobs, economic security, civic participation and the ability to navigate our institutions and daily life. For the more than 50,000 people on the ALE waiting list, they are being denied that chance. We’re grateful to state Senator Ramos and Assembly member Kim for their leadership on this urgent issue,” Ho said.  

Kim said he has consistently pushed his colleagues, State Assemblyman Speaker Carl Heastie, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to fully fund the programs, which is currently only funded at $7.8 million.

Kim noted that he and his colleagues had been successful in preserving and increasing partial funding for several years, but were dismayed by consistent attempts to cut funding for ALE programs by parties such as the governor’s office at each new legislative session. 

“My colleagues and I are sometimes frustrated by the inability of some other elected officials to see the vital importance of this issue, but we will continue to fight our hardest to secure full funding for ALE in New York,” Kim said. 

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