SACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — The Senate Select Committee on College and University Admissions and Outreach, Chaired by Senator Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) held a hearing today in Fresno at the Fresno Board of Education.

The hearing, titled “English Proficiency as a Barrier to College Admission: The Costs of a Broken System” explored how state and federal funding shapes California’s English Learner system and whether it is meeting the needs of our students.

“This hearing provided my committee the opportunity to hear directly from education officials in the Fresno area regarding how California’s English Learner programs are working and what needs to be improved upon,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

“Forty-three years after the first law to address limited English students, we are still light years away from our goal. We are failing our young people. Now is the time to act,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “These students are California’s future and it is vital that we do everything we can to make sure they are prepared to compete in the 21st Century economy,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

“Our students’ success in acquiring English Proficiency directly impacts the future economic sustainability of our state,” said Senator Alex Padilla.

Superintendent of Fresno Unified School District Michael Hanson, Superintendent of Fresno County Office of Education Larry Powell and local education officials as well as representatives from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the California Department of Education and others spoke at the hearing.

Senator Padilla’s committee has focused its efforts on reforming the English Learner System. In California, 1.45 million public school students are classified as English Learners. An English Learner is a K-12 student who is deemed not proficient in English. Each year, just 11 percent of these students are reclassified Fluent English Proficient. California’s failure to successfully reclassify students English Proficient has had a negative effect on student academic outcomes. Nearly 90 percent of English Learners do not complete courses necessary for admission to a California State University or the University of California.

As a result of his efforts, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed SB 753 (Padilla) which reforms how English Learners are evaluated in California schools by moving the California English Language Development Test (CELDT) from the fall to the spring. This will provide teachers time to work with, and help students reach English proficiency for their grade level. Once reclassified as Fluent-English Proficient, students are able to participate in courses which are required for admission to both the California State University and the University of California systems.

Senator Alex Padilla represents more than 850,000 residents of the 20th State Senate District which includes most of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles.