Fund Cutoff Threatens in 3 Weeks : Educators Try to Save Amnesty Classes

Times Staff Writer

Facing a cutoff of federal funds in three weeks, San Diego-area educators said Thursday they will do whatever they can to avoid a shutdown of the English and civics classes now being conducted for thousands of amnesty applicants.

California education officials have warned that, as of March 31, there will be no more money for such instruction until July, the beginning of the new fiscal year. The state education bureaucracy is pushing for a bill to quickly allocate an additional $50 million statewide, but the legislation’s future is murky.

“We’ll do everything possible not to close the doors,” said Jerry R. Rindone, director of adult eduction for the Sweetwater Union High School District, which covers much of the South Bay.

Earl J. Johnson, dean of the south region for the San Diego Community College Continuing Education Centers, added: “We don’t see people being thrown out.”


A Crisis Brewing

The two spoke after a session of area educators who met in an effort to deal with the funding deadline, which school authorities have characterized as an impending crisis. Educators said they will weigh a number of options, including cutbacks in other services, before drastically reducing amnesty instruction. However, the authorities said waiting lines for the classes are probably in the future.

“Grim,” is how the situation was assessed by Richard L. Stiles, administrator of California Department of Education’s amnesty unit, who attended the meeting.

Some critics have blamed the education department itself for creating the crisis by not properly targeting funds for those amnesty seekers most in need of the instruction. State officials have rejected the criticism, contending that they need more money to do the job right.

Education is a critical component of the amnesty process. Most of the nation’s 1.8 million general amnesty applicants--those who have been living in the United States since 1982--are required to show a minimum proficiency in English or civics by Nov. 1, 1990, or face possible deportation. Applicants can meet the requirement by taking 40 hours of classroom instruction.

In San Diego County, 25,000 amnesty seekers are believed to be enrolled in such classes. Statewide, 900,000 amnesty seekers are expected to seek English and civics instruction as part of the amnesty process.