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Andrew Friedman

Kendall Stewart Embarrasses Himself

Yesterday afternoon, the vast majority of the City Council voted to pass the Education Equity Act, important civil rights legislation that requires the Department of Education to improve the translation and interpretation services that it provides to the hundreds of thousands of New York City parents who are still in the process of learning English. The legislation won the support of a veto-proof 35 City Council members, and every member of the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus present, except one.

That one was Kendall Stewart, a co-sponsor of the legislation for months and the Chairperson of the City Council's Immigration Committee. Explaining his vote, Stewart proved that he had bought the minority Republicans' sham arguments against the bill hook, line and sinker. Despite the fact that New York City has a massive 50 billion dollar budget, Stewart accepted the tired lie that the City's multi-million person strong immigrant communities can only rely on a tiny sliver of the total pie, and that immigrant-friendly programs must compete only with other immigrant-friendly programs for funding.

Stewart said he supports ESL, not translation for parents. That's the same argument made disengenuously by the right-wing Republican Council Members who voted against the Education Equity Act. Stewart has been in the Council for years, though, and he should be bright enough to know that they were lying. This sradical conservative fringe of the Council has hardly been champions of funding ESL classes. They prefer property tax givebacks to homeowners that cost ten times what the Education Equity Act costs and benefits many fewer.

Every other member of the Caucus, and most of the rest of the Council, seemed to understand that we can fund both ESL classes and language assistance services. Immigrants do not need to be played against themselves. It is crucial to promote educational opportunity for all children and to not disadvantage children while their parents learn English.

So, Stewart's a dupe. What makes it embarrassing is that he is the Chair of the Immigration Committee and should know better. Many, though, have had serious misgivings about Stewart ever since he made offensive comments about his Haitian tenants years ago.

Another ridiculous outburst at yesterday's Council meeting came from Brooklyn Council Member Recchia, who sounded like a child having a tantrum as he spoke out against the Education Equity Act. His argument against the bill - it's unconstitutional! Which constitution, one might ask? And which provision of the Constitution? It would be laughable, if it wasn't so sad.

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Posted at 9:53 AM, Dec 22, 2005 in Civil Rights | Language Access | New York | Racial Justice | public services
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