Chancellor Porter and City Council Announce Historic $4 Million Investment in Language Access For All

NEW YORK – On Tuesday, November 30th, Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter and City Council announced the launch of “Language Access for All,” an historic $4 million investment in improving outreach, engagement and communication with multilingual families across New York City. Approximately 40 percent of New York City Department of Education families speak a language other than English at home, and this initiative will strengthen the NYCDOE’s ability to deliver resources to all families in a language that’s accessible for them.

This unprecedented investment stresses four critical areas of focus: citywide multi-lingual “know your rights” campaigns; expanding communications outlets and tools to reach more families; building language access capacity of school staff; and partnering with community-based organizations to provide multilingual family workshops and language support.

In addition to the language access investment by City Council, the NYCDOE is expanding its central Translation and Interpretation Unit and which will allow us to translate Individualized Education Program (IEP) to any family in their preferred language upon request. To request a translated IEP, families should contact their school, call 718-935-2013 or visit schools.nyc.gov/hello.

“One of the great things about our schools is their incredible breadth of diversity – so many of our families speak different languages at home and it’s essential that they have what they need to be active partners in their child’s education,” said Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter. “This historic investment will help us better support each and every one of our students while strengthening our work with families and communities across New York City.”

“Recognizing the devastating impact of the pandemic on New York’s immigrant communities and on schools, the Council made language access and family engagement a priority in the Fiscal 2022 Adopted Budget with a $4 million investment in the DOE. The Department’s four pronged approach to supporting families whose primary language is not English will ensure that multilingual students’ needs are met, that school staff are equipped with the tools to support these students, and that families are engaged,” said Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

“By expanding multi-lingual services for students and their families, we are increasing access to educational opportunities and building stronger school communities. This funding will help break down barriers and help parents support their child’s education with the availability of additional translation services. The ongoing pandemic continues to reveal many of the preexisting challenges our school system has faced and language access is one of them. Particularly, critical information and resources must be disbursed promptly to families in order to meet the needs of our children. I am proud to partner with Chancellor Porter to fund this important and timely initiative,” said NYC Council Education Chair Mark Treyger.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the inequities that our immigrant families face each day in our city. This was evident when it came to immigrant parents connecting with their local schools in a remote learning era,” said Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Chair of the Committee on Immigration. “I am proud to have worked with my colleagues and DOE to allocate this much needed $4 million investment to promote language equity and ensure medical, digital, and academic information is disseminated in languages the school community understands. When it comes to the education of our children, immigrant parents and DOE must be on the same page and speaking the same language.”

Child Learning. Image Credit - Picjumbo

Child Learning. Image Credit – Picjumbo

“This historic investment by City Council in language access will help our schools build bridges of trust with immigrant and multilingual families, and ensure that all families have the tools they need to support their children’s education,” said Deputy Chancellor of Community Empowerment, Partnerships, and Communications, Adrienne Austin. “We know that the road to language justice in public education is long, and we are taking a major step in the right direction.”

“With almost 40% of our DOE families speaking a language other than English at home and a growing list of avenues to communicate and engage families, we are grateful for the investment in the DOE’s language access efforts and look forward to enhancing our strategies to continue to empower our multilingual families,” said Director of Translation and Interpretation Kleber Palma.

“Immigrant families, like all families in the NYC public schools, have a right to participate in their children’s education, but to do so, they have to feel comfortable communicating with their schools,” said Kim Sweet, Executive Director of Advocates for Children of New York. “The NYC Department of Education should ensure that immigrant families receive all school-related documents in their home language and in a form that is accessible to them, even if they have low literacy. The DOE should also provide immigrant families with high-quality interpretation at all meetings, events, and interactions with school staff. We are encouraged by the City’s $4 million investment in language access services and hope that these additional resources lead to the creation and funding of a permanent, effective system of immigrant family-facing communication going forward.”

“More than one in three New York City public school students has a parent who speaks a language other than English at home. For these parents, timely translations and interpretation are critical to be able to fully engage and make informed decisions in their children’s education. Yet many immigrant families only receive information about important policy changes – such as school closures and availability of devices – weeks after English-speaking parents or from a community-based organization. During the pandemic, the long-standing limitations in providing adequate resources in parents’ native languages were exacerbated, which compounded the disproportionate hardships immigrant students already endured and only widened the gaps in their educational outcomes,” said Andrea Ortiz, Senior Manager of Education Policy at the New York Immigration Coalition. “We commend the City Council and the DOE for this investment to begin implementation of the NYIC Education Collaborative’s Communications Plan to address the needs of immigrant parents. This is an important first step to address these issues and partner with community-based organizations that have a long history in supporting our immigrant communities.”

“Compared to the citywide rate at 25%, nearly half of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) New Yorkers of working age are limited English proficient (LEP), and LEP rates of specific languages, including Chinese at 63% and Korean at 52%, are higher. Additionally, 42% of AAPI New Yorkers are linguistically isolated, the highest rate across all groups, meaning that no one over the age of 14 in the household speaks English well or at all. Thus, prompt in-language outreach and communications are essential for AAPI families to be truly included into their children’s school communities and to lower the barriers they face in accessing resources,” said Kaveri Sengupta, Education Policy Coordinator at the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF). “CACF applauds the City Council and the Department of Education for investing much-needed funding toward authentic family engagement and by extension, the capacity for students to reach their fullest potential, by building partnerships with community-based organizations directly serving families who speak languages other than English.”

Banner Image: Language Education. Image Credit – BiljaST

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