Adults who take English program must also become youth tutors

RAMONA — Like other school districts statewide, Ramona will offer a program to teach English to adults in exchange for a pledge that they will help tutor schoolchildren who are learning English.

The district received $16,000 in state funds to carry out the seldom- discussed clause of Proposition 227, passed by voters in June to curb bilingual education in school classrooms.

The state budget provides $50 million annually for the next decade for the English-language classes, and the 32 schools in San Diego County will share $3.8 million based on the number of limited-English speakers in each district.

“We have many students in school that have good English skills, but parents speak Spanish in the home,” Ramona school board member Arvie Degenfelder said. “This is an opportunity for them to catch up and maybe jump ahead.”

The 7,125-student Ramona school district is about 18 percent Hispanic, but only about 6 percent of the students are limited-English speakers.

Classes begin Monday at Ramona Elementary School for between 30 and 40 people who have expressed interest, although more classes will be added as needed. All of the participants have children in the Ramona schools.

Between 20 and 30 Ramona residents currently take English-language classes through a night school program. The added interest in Proposition 227 classes may be because they are offered before and after school, during the school day and on Saturdays, Assistant Superintendent Joe Annicharico said.

Participants will sign a pledge committing to tutoring students in kindergarten through 12th grade, once their own English skills improve.

“We’ll be using the informal approach,” Annicharico said. “Even though they sign a pledge, what’s to hold them to it other than their word?”

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