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Andy Ross
Prof. Christa Teston
English 4567S
4 May 2015
State of Literacy in Franklin County and Ohio
ABSTRACT: Largely due to the booming immigrant population, the percentage
of low literate adults in Franklin County has risen drastically in the past
decade. This is a far-reaching problem, with literacy being required for a
myriad of daily tasks and activities. Though Columbus City Schools and other
area agencies are making significant strides in order to combat this issue, not
enough is being done. The limited capacity, due to sparse funding, presents
unhealthy classroom teacher ratios. Going further, a significant number of
Columbus area literacy agencies and locations offering free ABLE or ESOL
classes have closed down in the past few years. Low literacy also presents
problems for individuals in the search for reliable and effective healthcare.
Due to many important Medicaid correspondence being sent in exclusively
English, many Ohio immigrants lose their benefits simply because they
cannot understand the content of the letter. However, this is a cyclical
problem. There is a strong correlation between family financial status and
literacy rate. Financial literacy also proves to be well under the national
average for Ohioans. Failure to effectively budget and keep track of finances
often results in a low financial status. Literacy in a multitude of facets has
struggle to see significant improvements in recent years.

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KEYWORDS: Literacy, immigrant, financial literacy, ESOL, Medicaid, poverty

Over 13% of Franklin County adults could not read a note sent home
from their childs school. Over 13% of Franklin County adults are unable to
understand the headlines of a newspaper. Over 13% of Franklin County adults
are functionally illiterate (Smith-Richards 2009). Literacy, as a whole, has
become an increasing problem in Franklin County and Ohio alike. Since 1992,
this number of low-literate adults has risen from 8% to its current percentage
of 13% (2009). This problem is largely rooted in Columbus rampant immigrant
population. Tens of thousands of immigrants in Franklin County alone see the
far-reaching effects of low literacy exhibited in their inability to compete in
the workplace, maintain healthcare coverage, and budget their finances
In recent years, Columbus has increasingly become a much soughtafter hub for immigrants from a myriad of countries, many of them with below
average literacy and English speaking skills. According to a 2009 Franklin
County survey, over 113,000 individuals in the Columbus metropolitan area
speak a language other than English at home (Data Set 2009). As of 2014,
the total Columbus population hit 822,553 (QuickFacts 2014). As can be seen
here, immigrants who speak English as their second language account for a
significant portion of the total Columbus population. Many of these lowliterate individuals struggle with daily tasks that require proficient knowledge

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of the English language. While the public school system has taken action to
curb this dilemma, the results are still coming up short. Columbus City
Schools relocates the vast majority of its students with limited English skills to
the Columbus Global Academy located in the now defunct Linmoor Middle
School. The academy, currently hosting 825 students, has plentiful physical
space for students, allowing up to 1,300 at its maximum capacity. The
academy, however, lacks the optimal amount of teachers. The current ratio of
class sizes is 36 students to one teacher, as opposed to the ideal ratio of 20
students to one teacher (Bush 2015). With classroom sizes nearing 40
students to a single teacher, the atmosphere is hardly conducive to learning.
Low literacy does not solely plague children who speak English as their
second language, but all Franklin County children. A reading test issued to
third graders in October 2013 hosted grim results; only 42% of Columbus
students passed the exam (Boss 2014). Going further, if ESOL programs in
schools are unable to effectively teach the children while young, their comfort
and knowledge with the English language will suffer well into adulthood and
yield more severe repercussions.
Though low literacy in the immigrant population causes daily confusion
and misunderstandings, it has more serious financial and health related
consequences. Over the course of February and March 2015, the state of Ohio
sent out termination warning letters to nearly 350,000 Medicaid recipients for
failing to verify their income (Candisky 2015). The letters stated that, if not
returned with the requested information, the recipients would lose all

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Medicaid benefits for the upcoming year. These letters, however, were written
exclusively in English, despite Ohio being host to many communities that do
not speak English as their first language, ultimately leading to confusion and
extreme misunderstanding for the members of these communities (2015).
These communities are often the ones most plagued with the inability to gain
an adequate ESOL education. For an immigrant with low literacy, these dense
termination letters could be a point of confusion that could result with the
individual losing his or her access to healthcare and gaining ensuing
expensive hospital bills. The healthcare issue does not solely affect the
individuals who lose their coverage, but every taxpaying citizen. ProLiteracy
estimates that the annual cost of low health literacy in the U.S. is between
$106 billion and $238 billion (ProLiteracy 2014). Clearly, low English literacy
has far reaching effects. That being said, literacy, or lack thereof, is not an
issue that solely affects immigrants and non-English speakers. The
aforementioned misunderstanding regarding Medicaid and other health
related entities lend its hand to another point of confusion: financial literacy.
Financial literacy proves to be one of the most severe facets of
everyday life that citizens struggle with in Franklin County and beyond. While
this area has shown slight improvements in recent years, Ohioans still show a
lack of understanding of basic financial concepts and an inability to make
consistently rational financial decisions. In 2013, the Financial Industry
Regulatory Authority (FINRA) conducted the Investor Education Foundations
National Financial Capability study, which tests citizens aptitude for

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budgeting their finances and overall financial knowledge. Ohio ranked fourth
worst in the nation in this test (Williams 2013). Though Ohio is certainly
behind in the national outlook of financial literacy, the United States as a
whole struggles with basic financial literacy tasks. According to the 2014
Financial Literacy Survey 61% of adults concede that they have no sort of
personal budget outlined for their financial output (Ludlow 2014). Ohioans,
and Americans alike, struggle with understanding how to properly care for
their finances and make sound decisions. Low financial literacy inherently
leads to poverty, and consequently, low literacy. As the United Nations
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) notes on its
website, Illiteracy and poverty constitute a mutually reinforcing vicious cycle
that is difficult to break. People with low levels of literacy are more likely to
earn less and experience poverty or extreme povertytheir opportunities are
limited in all spheres of life (Poverty 2015). If Ohioans are struggling
significantly with their financial lives, this effectively leaves them stuck in a
cycle of poverty. The issue of literacy, however, begins at a young age and
carries over well into adulthood.
As can be seen here, literacy is not an issue for Columbus alone. Every
day, individuals across the country struggle to balance their finances and
participate in other tasks that require basic English speaking, reading, and
writing skills. Though measures are being taken to curb this issue, they are
not helping fast enough or severely enough. In 2010, close to 70 agencies or
organizations offered ESOL or ABLE classes to Franklin County adults with

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little or no cost to the students. Through cold calls and personal interaction
and correspondence, I found that at least 25 of these locations no longer offer
any sort of classes to better the literacy of local adults. Franklin County is
suffering from severe low-literacy. Not nearly enough is being done to combat
this increasingly far-reaching issue.

Works Cited

Boss, Charlie, and Jennifer Smith Richards. "87% of Ohio Third-graders Pass
Reading Test." The Columbus Dispatch 18 June 2014. The Dispatch
Printing Company. Web. 24 Mar. 2015.

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Bush, Bill. "Columbus Schools' Immigrant Program Has Too Few Teachers,
State Says." The Columbus Dispatch 16 Feb. 2015. The Dispatch
Printing Company. Web. 2 Mar. 2015.
Candisky, Catherine. "Medicaid Could Dump 500,000 Ohioans in 6 Months."
The Columbus Dispatch 6 Feb. 2015. The Dispatch Printing Company.
Web. 7 Mar. 2015.
Data Set: 2007-2009 American Community Survey, Franklin County, Ohio, US
Census Bureau
Ludlow, Kurt. "Americans Financially Illiterate, Poll Finds." The Columbus
Dispatch 13 Apr. 2014. The Dispatch Printing Company. Web. 9 Mar.
"Poverty and Development." UNESCO, 1 Jan. 2015. Web.
ProLiteracy. Adult Literacy and Basic Education. 8 September 2014.

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"Rankings & Estimates 2014-2015." NEA Research (2015): 10-16.
National Education Association. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.
Smith-Richards, J. "Reading Rate Dismal." The Columbus Dispatch 9 Jan. 2009.
The Dispatch Printing Company. Web. 13 Apr. 2015.
"United States Census Bureau." Columbus (city) QuickFacts from the US
Census Bureau. 31 Mar. 2015. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.
Williams, Mark. "Ohioans Score Poorly in Financial Literacy 101." The
Columbus Dispatch 4 June 2013. The Dispatch Printing Company. Web.
6 Mar. 2015.