La Alianza Hispana, a prominent Latino community nonprofit based in Roxbury, is on the brink of closing its English Language Learning (ELL) program following the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) decision to cut the organization’s funding.
The defunding was due to DESE’s determination that La Alianza’s “services are not at the level of quality the community has come to expect from them,” according to State Sen. Sonia Chang-Díaz.
“I was dismayed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s decision to completely defund La Alianza Hispana,” she told the Gazette in a prepared statement. “Destabilizing this organization with such a large and abrupt cut is, to put it simply, a big deal.”
Chang-Díaz and At-Large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley have been advocating on behalf of La Alianza. An appeal hearing with DESE was scheduled for Sept. 11, after the Gazette’s deadline, and Pressley has asked for a City Council hearing to assess the state of adult education in the city for the fall.
Chang-Díaz has asked DESE to continue funding La Alianza for another three months to give them time to discuss potential options.
“We were defunded without prior notice, without corrective action,” La Alianza spokesperson Hanoi Reyes said. The DESE “did not give specific reasons on why we lost the funding.”
“Our objective was to fund the programs that are the most effective in helping students achieve their goals,” DESE spokesperson C.J. Considine said. “This was a highly competitive process.”
Of the 31 organizations that applied for new or continued funding, 22 received it. Six of the nine that did not receive funding were previously funded by DESE, Considine said.
The free adult ELL program has been serving Latinos in the JP area for over 25 years, Reyes said. The next closest agency that provides a similar service is a women-only agency in Mattapan.
“I’m disappointed in the decision,” state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez told the Gazette. “They’re the only provider [of adult ELL] in that community.”
“Most of the population we serve cannot afford to pay for classes,” Reyes said. “For every student taking a class, there are two more on a waiting list.”
In support of the English classes, La Alianza also helps students set goals, prepare for college, and get licenses—services that will also be lost if the de-funding is permanent.
“If we don’t offer these services, it really impacts their lives,” Reyes said.
“The department worked with La Alianza Hispana to ensure that students were able to transition to a Department-funded Community Adult Learning Center and address issues related to the termination of its grant,” Considine said. “The department extended the program’s grant through July 31 to help support these activities.”