Adult Literacy

With over 2.2 million New Yorkers lacking English language proficiency, a high school diploma, or both, a third of New York City's adult population lacks the basic skills required to better their work, family, and civic lives. Despite this need, less than 3% of these 2.2 million are currently able to access a classroom seat in community-based programs.

In response to these needs of the immigrant community, the NYIC Adult Literacy Campaign fights for an equitable and community-based ESOL and adult education system.

The NYIC Adult Literacy Campaign asserts that a robust Adult Education System is all the more necessary as New York prepares for the impact of the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which will drastically impact the ability of providers to serve undocumented New Yorkers and those with the lowest skills. Such a system must also incorporate realistic funding rates to allow programs to run successful, high-quality classes.

Current funding rates set programs up for the impossible. The NYIC Adult Literacy Program demands that rates be raised to allow for not only the financial support of full-time instructors, but also for the full scope of student retention and success supports (such as case management preparation time, intake, testing, data entry, reporting, and much more). Without such a system and without higher rates, tens of thousands of New Yorkers each year will continue to be unable to access workforce training programs, to gain the skills to better support their children in school, or to communicate with doctors and law enforcement should they have an emergency.

For additional information on the NYIC’s Adult Literacy Campaign, please contact Andrea Ortiz at

History of the NYIC Adult Literacy Campaign:

  • 2013: Mayor Bloomberg baselines $3.5 million in adult literacy funding before leaving office. Council creates the Young Immigrant Literacy Program investing $18 million over two years to support outreach, legal, and literacy services for those who may be eligible for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). From these funds, $11.5 million is invested into community-based adult literacy programming through DYCD and CUNY with a strategic outreach and program design to serve any out-of-school, undocumented immigrant in the DACA age range. In Year 1, $5.2 million is invested in literacy programming.
  • 2014: The second year of the Young Immigrant Literacy Program includes $6.24 million in literacy funding. New York City announces its Career Pathways plan with the intention to invest $60 million in bridge programming by 2020. City Council invests an additional $750,000 in the baselined Adult Literacy Initiative.
  • 2015: City Council invests $630,000 in the baselined Adult Literacy Initiative bringing its total non-baselined funding to $1.38 million. The Young Immigrant Literacy Program ends. Providers lose over 6,300 adult literacy seats.
  • 2016: New York City invests $12 million in the adult literacy field as a one-time expense. Funding is not baselined, so student seat rates are not raised. Despite an acute need and demand for classes, many programs were unable to accept additional funds. Funds not spent were used for an expansion of the We Are New York video series and Community Schools.