Teachers at California's adult schools expressed their concern over the requirement to learn English included in the immigration reform package approved in the Senate, given that it would increase the number of students at institutions that are already suffering from budget cuts.

"One of the concerns we have is that, insofar as we're growing and trying to add more classes and hire more teachers, the funds to pay for and support that aren't there," Steve Curiel, director of the Huntington Beach Adult School, told Efe.

The English as a Second Language (ESL) program at Curiel's school has 2,000 people enrolled, of whom more than 50 percent are Hispanic.

The reform proposal approved by the Senate says that the 11 million undocumented foreigners who want to legalize their immigration status in the United States must speak and understand English.

"There are a little more than 300 adult schools where we offer ESL classes in California, among which up to 2008 the state's education department distributed $650 million annually to teach 1.2 million students," Curiel said.

"There were budget cuts and for the last five years only $300 million has been invested in adult education each year and, so, today we can only attend to 600,000 students, half of those we had in 2008," he said.

Alfonso Neavez, an English teacher at the Huntington Beach adult school, told Efe that they are "happy that up to today the ESL teaching programs have not been closed."

"The schools are doing everything possible, with the little money they allocate to us, to offer the English classes," said Neavez.

H.D. Palmer, the spokesman for the California Department of Finance, told Efe that Gov. Jerry Brown supported Proposition 30, approved by the voters last November, to temporarily collect more taxes to finance education.

"Whether the immigration reform is approved or not, each school will receive a subsidy per enrolled student, plus a supplementary subsidy by number of students who belong to three groups with greater difficulties, which are students of English, students from families with low incomes and young people in foster homes," Palmer said. EFE