Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Victory (Kind of) at last for Immigrant Parents

Yesterday, Bloomberg and the City Council agreed to expand translation services to immigrant parents (Newsday article here, and DOE press release on the deal here). The increase in funds ($2 million will be added to the $10 million the city already spends) to Bloomy's Translation and Interpretation Unit will allow more school documents to be translated. The deal sidesteps a threat by the City Council to override Bloomberg's recent veto of the Education Equity Act, which would have mandated more comprehensive translation services in schools.

It will be hard to tell anytime soon if the extra money will change much in the schools and as the Newsday article points out, the provision that says services will be available to "the extent practicable" is worrying because schools may simply choose not provide the services since it often isn't practical for schools without resources to provide translation services to parents in a number of languages. Still, it is encouraging that something was done to reach out to immigrant parents and not treat them as second-class citizens simply because they haven't learned English yet. If these parents can become more involved in their children's education, I think the benefits to schools and communities will outweigh the costs of increased services. Language access doesn't guarantee parent involvement, but it is a good first step.

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