Nearly half of the public school students in New York City speak a language other than English at home, according to a report released this month by an immigrant activists group.
The New York Immigration Coalition’s report looked at the barriers non-English speaking parents face to participate in their child’s education, especially since more than 180 languages are spoken in the city.
The group’s analysis takes specific issue with the availability of translations and translators for the diverse and expansive non-English speaking population, arguing that government regulations grant parents a right to translation services.
While the NYC Department of Education’s Translation & Interpretation Unit offers such services and schools can access interpreters in over 150 languages over the phone, the group says there needs to be broader access.
“We release today’s report with hopes that the Department of Education (DOE) will take immediate action to address the serious language access barriers that New York City’s parents face when trying to engage in their children’s school lives,” Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition said in a statement.
“Currently, the DOE has only two people who are responsible for monitoring and supporting more than 1,700 schools on translation and interpretation. This is unacceptable given almost half a million students speak a language other than English at home,” he added.
The group’s report makes recommendations including instituting a “Language Access Coordinator in Each Superintendent Office,” offering schools a direct phone link to interpreters, making phone interpreters available beyond business hours, and expanding access to translated documents.
In a statement to the New York Daily News, the NYC DOE reiterated a commitment to deducting language barriers.
“Chancellor [Carmen] Fariña has prioritized the expansion of access to all services in native languages,” the newspaper quotes a DOE email. “Additional funding has been allocated over the next two years to support over-the-phone language services for parents in over 200 languages.”