DMI Blog

Andrew Friedman

Disgraceful, in any language

Yesterday's New York Sun ran an article that describes a letter opposing the Education Equity Act that was sent out to the full City Council by Council Member James Oddo and seven of his colleagues. The Education Equity Act promotes equal educational opportunity and parental involvement for all City students by requiring the Department of Education to provide translation and interpretation services for the 25% of parents who are still in the process of learning English.

In the letter, Oddo re-iterates the false opposition that has been the core argument this legislation, and other similar civil rights initiatives aimed at ensuring equal access to government services. Oddo asserts that he "understands the importance of parental involvement, but not at the expense of the English language." Of course, this argument is both nonsense and completely disingenuous.

First, it is actually possible to provide both translation services for parents who need them, and English language instruction to help New Yorkers learn English. Every New Yorkers wants to learn English, but learning English takes time. As parents learn, it is crucial that their children are not disadvantaged academically. Particularly in light of the tragic statistics that were released last week about the DOE's failure to effectively ensure that Latino children graduate from high school.

Unfortunately, a report by the New York Immigration Coalition shows that over 90% of the need for English as a Second Language classes goes unmet. None of the Council Members who signed this letter have been at the front of efforts to expand access to English language classes. In contrast, the parents, organizations and public officials supporting the Education Equity Act have been championing the importance of increased access to English clases for many years.

The bottom line is, the Education Equity Act promotes equal treatment and equal opportunity for all New Yorkers. Educators of all stripes agree that parent involvement is key to promoting student academic success. We must provide language access services to promote parent involvement because one out of every four parents does not speak English.

English language acquisition is also important. But excluding immigrant parents from their children's education does nothing to help anyone to learn English. It just hurts hundreds of thousands of immigrant children.

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Posted at 6:37 AM, Dec 08, 2005 in Civil Rights | Language Access | New York
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