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Know Your Rights
Source: Daily News
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

Mayor pressed on School Translation Bill

Mayor Bloomberg is on a collision course with the City Council over a recently passed bill to increase translation services for public school parents who don’t speak English.

The bill passed in the Council Dec. 21 by a 35-11 vote, with one abstention. The mayor has until Jan. 20 to veto it.

A group of Council members and advocates for immigrant groups gathered yesterday on the steps of City Hall to press the mayor not to veto the bill, known as Intro 464A.

But mayoral spokesman Jordan Barowitz said that a veto is still "expected."

"No matter how well-intentioned, it violates state education law," Barowitz said of the bill. "And it duplicates the efforts already being made by the Education Department."

The veto would be the first of Bloomberg’s second term. The Council overrode 36 of the mayor’s vetoes during his first term, although several are still being litigated.

Critics complain the bill would cost the Education Department $20 million a year, while boosters say expanded language assistance services would enable non-English-speaking parents to better participate in their children’s education.

"I hope he does veto it," said Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Queens), an opponent of the bill. "Anyone who gives a parent or child the impression that it’s not necessary to learn English immediately is doing them a disservice."

But Councilman Hiram Monserrate (D-Queens), the bill’s main booster, said, "In essence, it’s about opening the schoolhouse doors and ensuring that translation services are accessible to hundreds and thousands of students who have parents who are still in the process of learning English."

Vlademier Epshteyn, of the Metropolitan Russian-American Parents Association, added, "This issue is not a Latino issue; it’s not a Chinese, Korean and so on issue. It’s an issue of all immigrants of New York."

Monserrate said there’s enough support in the 51-member Council to muster the 34 votes needed to override a veto.

Among its many requirements, the bill mandates the Education Department translate documents and notices distributed to 1,000 or more parents or guardians into the nine "most commonly" spoken languages in the city. Such documents would include the text of report cards, permission slips and notices about school events.

The most commonly spoken languages in the city are English, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Bengali, Haitian Creole, Korean, Urdu and Arabic.