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Romney Expands Adult Basic Education for Immigrants

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Aims to reduce waitlists for popular ESL and adult literacy programs

Following up on his pledge to fund English classes for thousands of newly arrived immigrants, Governor Mitt Romney today highlighted a section of his Fiscal Year 2006 budget that increases funding for adult basic education by nearly 30 percent.

"For generations of immigrants, learning English has been the key to unlocking the American Dream," said Romney. "My proposal will give thousands more the opportunity to achieve success for themselves and their families."

There are currently 25,000 individuals awaiting instruction in English as a Second Language, adult literacy and adult secondary education in Massachusetts. Waiting lists for admission into these classes range from four months to two years in large urban areas. Adult basic education programs currently enroll 21,000 people per year.

Romney's budget proposal, which was introduced earlier this week, proposed increasing funding for adult basic education programs by $8 million for a total of $36 million, a nearly 30 percent increase. This increase will enable statewide adult basic education programs to accommodate approximately 4,000 more students each year.

"Adult Basic Education is vitally important for a great number of Boston residents, and especially people who are new to this country," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. "The additional $8 million proposed by Governor Romney will go a long way toward addressing the very long waiting list for ESOL classes and help all Adult learners achieve self sufficiency."

"We are enthusiastic about Governor Romney's proposal because there is an overwhelming need out there right now," said Westy Egmont, Director of the International Institute of Boston, which provides services to immigrants and refugees. "This should be a high priority in this state and I hope the Legislature will support the Governor's proposal."

Romney made his comments during a visit to the International Institute of Boston, which is part of a network of more than 200 community-based organizations, school districts and community colleges that provide English as a Second Language, adult literacy and adult education programs. The International Institute of Boston and its affiliates serve more than 10,000 immigrants and refugees each year.

New immigrants continue to account for the bulk of Massachusetts' labor force growth. More than 50 percent of these newcomers have limited English language skills and access to education is critical to their successful economic and social integration.

Romney pointed to the example of Genoveva Romera, who emigrated from El Salvador five years ago knowing very little English. In 2002, she began taking ESL courses at the International Institute of Boston and now works in the housekeeping department of a Boston hotel.

"I am so glad that I could go to English classes so I could get a job in Massachusetts," said Romero, 27, who is learning English at the International Institute of Boston. She said she hopes to one day go on to college.

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