They talked turkey yesterday at City Hall – in English and eight other languages.
Mayor Bloomberg and new City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D- Manhattan) announced an agreement to expand translation services in the public schools for parents with little or no proficiency in English.
More than 40% of the city’s 1 million students live in households where a language other than English is spoken. The city will also increase funding for translation and interpreter services by $2 million, bringing the total to $12 million a year. And an advisory task force will be named to monitor implementation and future needs.
Even before yesterday’s agreement, the city Education Department had been translating many school documents into eight foreign languages most commonly spoken by parents – Spanish, Chinese, Urdu, Russian, Bengali, Haitian Creole, Korean and Arabic. Under the deal, the school system will make even more of its records, notices and announcements available in those eight languages.
City Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens), the main sponsor and booster of the measure, said the agreement was forged because those involved “put politics aside.”
The pact came just three days before a deadline for a veto override vote in the Council on a contested bill – known as the Education Equity Act – that would have required the school system to expand language translation and interpretation services. Bloomberg had vetoed the bill last month on the ground it violates state law.
With Quinn at his side, Bloomberg said, “I think today’s announcement reflects an important step forward in the relationship between the City Council and the administration.”
Quinn said the agreement incorporates “the lion’s share of the specific elements” of the bill.
Under the deal, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein will, for the first time, issue a chancellor’s regulation specifically about translation and interpreter services. Previously, they were more loosely regulated by directives.
“This makes it a permanent, clear policy and formalizes it,” Klein said. “So, obviously, we plan to enforce it.”