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Know Your Rights
Source: Courier Life Publications
Subject: Education Justice
Type: Media Coverage

New City Policy to Provide More Language Assistance to Immigrant Parents

New York, NY (Feb. 27) — Immigrant parents and advocates joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Speaker Christine Quinn in a press conference to announce a new regulation that improves city schools’ language assistance to immigrant parents. The new regulation is the result of a coalition campaign led by immigrant parents. Community groups throughout the city and City Council members who saw the need to break down the language barrier in order to enable immigrant parents to get involved in their children’s education.

The new policy, in the form of a chancellor’s regulation sets clearer standards for when the Department of Education (DOE) should provide language assistance, requires each school to come up with its own comprehensive language assistance plan, comes with $2 million in enhanced funding and is accompanied by a promise by the DOE to report to City Council when language assistance is not provided due to funding limitations. Also, immigrant community representatives have been invited to join a task force to work with the DOE and the mayor’s office to ensure implementation and effective monitoring.

The regulation takes provisions from and fills some of the critical needs for language services outlined in the Education Equity Act, a bill that Councilman Hiram Monserrate and immigration groups advocated for and that Mayor Bloomberg vetoed this January. The agreement City Council override of the veto and possibly a prolonged legal battle between the mayor and the Council.

“The city’s new policy represents an important step forward in providing equal opportunity for immigrant parents to get involved in their children’s education. After all, parents who need language assistance make up nearly half of the city’s parent population,” said Chung-Wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

“We look forward to working with the Department of Education, the mayor, and the City Council to ensure implementation and also to develop a comprehensive response to the immigrant student drop out crisis, lack of equal access to small schools, quality and availability of bilingual and English-as-Second-Language classes and continuing improvements in the language assistance to immigrant parents.”

 Many immigrant parents welcomed the regulation as a significant victory for parents who have been fighting for equal access to the school system. “As a parent, I know that this is a major step forward for all immigrant parents in New York City. Now, I look forward to going to my daughters’ schools and not being afraid that I won’t be able to communicate with her teachers,” said Irania Sanchez a parent and Board Chair of Make the Road by Walking, a Bushwick-based organization that works with immigrants.

 “The decision to bring all parents, especially immigrant patents, to the table is a smart move that will have a direct impact on immigrant student achievement. Yet, our work by no means ends here. More needs to be done to strengthen collaboration with immigrant parents and to help immigrant students succeed in our schools,” said Ana Maria Archila, executive director of the Latin American Integration Center, a community based social service and civil rights organization with offices in Queens and Staten Island.

 “We are cautiously optimistic; while this is a very important first step, the DOE must now make sure that principals and administrators are trained on the requirements of the regulation and actually provide translation and interpretation for parents who need the services. We book forward to working with the DOE and the City Council to monitor the implementation of the regulation and assure adequate funding,” said Sonal Panel, director of immigrant Students Rights Project at Advocates for Children.

The New York Immigration Coalition is an umbrella policy and advocacy organization with more than 150 member groups in New York, and words for justice and opportunity for immigrants and refugees.