Pasadena Unified Loses Funding for American Sign Language Program at Marshall, Explores Alternatives

Published : Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | 9:56 AM

Pasadena Unified School District officials confirmed Wednesday morning the District has lost funding for the American Sign Language program for students at Marshall Fundamental Secondary School and will shut down the program.

“American Sign Language will continue to be offered in the Pasadena Unified School District at Blair and Pasadena High School, based upon student interest. The District is exploring alternatives to offer Marshall students who are interested in continuing ASL studies,” said Hilda Ramirez Horvath, Coordinator, Communications & Community Engagement at Pasadena Unified School District in an email this morning.

Pasadena Unified Board member Scott Phelps explained that “because of a reduction in funding for those types of positions, which in our district is called Career Technical Education Teachers, (CTE Teachers), the board made reductions in those positions, but the board wasn’t aware there was a popular program that was going to be affected.”

Pasadena Unified faces $7.7 million in budget reductions this year, Horvath said.

“Instructors for American Sign Language classes have been funded by grants for Career Technical Education positions. Grants provide funding for a limited period of time; the grants that funded the Marshall ASL full-time teaching position have now expired,” Horvarth explained.

Altadena resident Samantha James started an online petition on www.Change.org on Tuesday calling on Superintendent Brian McDonald and the Board of Education to save the ASL Program.  The petition has since gathered 795 signatures as of Wednesday morning.

“It is crucial for students to have this class as a college foreign language requirement, but also for their cultural and educational enrichment,” the petition letter said. “The program has been gaining interest and support, and has produced some amazing signers that have brought recognition to the district. ASL is tremendously important to the students, and we wish that you will allow for the program to continue next year.”

Phelps, hearing the concerns of the students and parents said has seen the reaction and has asked for “an agenda item on the 25th for a board action item to “Preserve” the program.”

“I understand the cost of doing so would be, this is very rough, for one teacher, Dr. Bird had said it would be about $100,000 in total cost with salary and benefits.” Phelps said.

To read the petition, visit www.Change.org.

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