2004-12-10 / Community

Council Members, Parents Call For School Translations

Council Member Hiram Monserrate joined this week with Council Members David Yassky, Helen Foster, UFT President Randi Weingarten, ACORN Executive Director Bertha Lewis, representatives from Make the Road By Walking, the New York Immigration Coalition and members of the City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus to announce the UFT, ACORN

and Caucus endorsement of the “Education Equity Act,” a progressive

piece of legislation that will ensure all New York City parents are treated as partners in the education of their children. “What good is a report card if a child’s parent isn’t able to read it?”

said Council Member Monserrate, Co-Chair of the Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus. “Parents have a right and responsibility to play active roles in their children’s education and this legislation will ensure they have the opportunity to do so. If the mayor is truly committed to parental involvement then I urge him to join with us and make it possible.”

The Educational Equity Act will require all Department of Education

(DOE) schools to provide timely interpretation services for Limited English Proficient (LEP) parents at parent-teacher conferences, at Parent-Teacher Association meetings and at all meetings between parents and DOE employees. The bill also requires DOE to translate all notices, report cards, and other documents into the eight most common primary languages spoken by all LEP parents. Currently, the DOE has no comprehensive interpretation services for LEP parents and guardians.

“Translation services for parents of public school students are essential in New York City. How can a parent be involved in their child’s education when they can’t understand what the teacher is sending home?” Yassky said. “The mayor wants to create a department of translation services within the DOE, and that’s a good first step. But

it is not enough to translate what the chancellor says. We must also make sure that parents can read what their child’s teacher and principal have to say.”

According to the 2000 Census, one in four New York City parents is not

an English speaker but recent reports by the community groups Make the

Road by Walking and the New York Immigrant Coalition have both concluded that the New York City education system is under serving the majority of these parents. Specifically, the Make the Road by Walking report found that a mere 40% of limited English proficient parents receive the

translation and interpretation services they need.

“Parental involvement is crucial to the success of our education system,” said Council Member Helen Foster, Co-Chair of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus. “Immigrant parents are being shut out of the process and their children are the ones who are suffering. This bill will help bridge that gap in the system and provide a better education for all of New York City’s school children, regardless of their background.”

Mayor Bloomberg recently joined DOE Chancellor Joel Klein in announcing the creation of a new Translation and Interpretation Services Unit. Unfortunately the new two-person unit is woefully under-staffed and under-funded. The DOE has also failed to provide any details as to what communication will be translated and the process by which that translation will take place.

“If we want parents to get involved in their kids’ schooling, we have to be able to communicate with them. That’s why the UFT’s Dial-A-Teacher program now can help families in a dozen languages,” said UFT President Randi Weingarten. “The UFT is pleased to join with the members of the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus to urge all members of the City Council to support this legislation and to strenuously urge Mayor Bloomberg to sign it.”

“Let us truly leave no parent behind,” said Bertha Lewis, Executive Director of ACORN. “Race, class, and ethnicity should not be a barrier to obtaining an education in this country. Let’s make sure language isnot a barrier.”

Monserrate and Yassky introduced the Education Equity Act of 2004 at the Council’s Stated meeting on September 28th. The Council passed legislation last year that addressed language access to social services. Local Law 73, signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg on December 22nd, 2003, was a significant step in broadening accessibility to city government

for LEP New Yorkers.

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