Heath: Bill aimed at limiting adult education financial aid would hurt English language learners

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CONCORD, NH – A bill that would prohibit the distribution of adult education financial assistance to any student who is not a “legal resident” (SB 525), was effectively killed by the House Education Committee, but a Manchester state rep says that’s not enough.

State Rep. Mary Heath

On April 17, the committee voted for a status of “interim study.” Manchester State Representative Mary Heath (D-14) seeks to change the status to “inexpedient to legislate” (ITL), a more certain way to prevent the bill from passing on the House floor.

Manchester’s large population of immigrants can learn English, job hunting, and other life skills at Holy Cross Family Learning Center, International Institute of New England, Southern New Hampshire Services, and Manchester Community College, among others. Welcoming Manchester provides a range of services and referrals to education. The city is known for its wide range of languages spoken here.

Heath wrote a minority report, stating, “Many New Hampshire residents are on a legal pathway for eligibility to work, and the process can be long and complicated. Under this bill, a person with a pending application might not be allowed to learn English, yet they would be expected to know English once approved.”

In a press release, Heath wrote:

“Senate Bill 525 would also create an administrative and moral strain for educators who currently work to welcome and instruct all who come to learn English, while simultaneously preparing them for civic engagement and entry into the work force.

“Adult education centers are responsible for providing educational opportunity for any adult who seeks them. They were not created to monitor immigrant resident status. And as a multitude of adult education teachers and administrators testified, access to these centers gives immigrant families a better ability to work and contribute to the communities in which they reside.”