Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Report cards officially become a campaign issue

Yesterday, Democratic frontrunner Fernando Ferrer criticized Mayor Bloomberg for failing to provide sufficient translation services to parents. Here is an excerpt from the New York Sun article:

The leading Democratic mayoral candidate, Fernando Ferrer, said yesterday that Mayor Bloomberg has not done enough with regard to translation and interpretation services to help immigrant parents become more involved in their children's education."
Translation is an integral part of a public school education," Mr. Ferrer said after marching, flanked by 20 Hispanic parents, to P.S.116 in Bushwick, Brooklyn. "Bloomberg still won't take responsibility for parents who desperately need translation services so that they can play an active role in their children's education."
Mr. Ferrer said Mr. Bloomberg's new Translation and Interpretation Services Unit, created last September, was "understaffed and underfunded." Mr. Ferrer then repeated his statement in Spanish.
According to a report referred to by Mr. Ferrer and released yesterday by the nonprofit group Make the Road by Walking, 25% of all New York City parents are excluded from their children's education by language barriers. If elected mayor, Mr. Ferrer said, he would "first try to keep the promise Mike Bloomberg made - to spend $10 million on translation and interpretation services."
According to Mr. Bloomberg's campaign spokesman, Stuart Loeser, the mayor has already invested that $10 million, with the allocation of the last $7.5 million announced last month. "We're already hard at work on this," Mr. Loeser said.

It's good that Ferrer is raising this issue - I think that Bloomberg is on the right track with the recent increase in funds for the centralized translation office, but much more needs to be done so non-English speaking parents can feel comfortable at school and begin participating in their child's education. Although I don't see how spending a few million more dollars (which seems to be what Ferrer is suggesting) more will do the trick - there needs to be a firm commitment to provide these services in all schools (many schools in Western Queens aren't getting any help at this point), which is what the Education Equity Act would do. Still, I think that NYC Educator's comment on a previous post that this issue will go away after the election is probably correct. Unless of course Bloomberg or Ferrer (more likely) are elected because of a high Latino or immigrant turnout. But even then it will still be an uphill battle.

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