‘Language Access for All’ program aims to connect with all NYC public school parents

Education

The City’s Schools Chancellor Meisha Porter and the City Council on Tuesday announced the launch of a program to improve outreach, engagement and communication with multilingual families across New York City. 

Dubbed “Language Access for All” and paid for through a $4 million City Council allocation, the program will target the roughly 40% of New York City public school parents that speak a language other than English at home, and will strengthen the Department of Education’s ability to deliver resources to all families in a language that’s accessible for them.

The initiative will focus on four areas: 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.

“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 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.”

Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said 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 Johnson.

City Council Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn) said by expanding multi-lingual services for students and their families, the city is 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,” said Treyger. “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.”

Kaveri Sengupta, Education Policy Coordinator at the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families (CACF) said 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 Sengupta.

In addition to the “Language Access for All” initiative, the DOE is expanding its central Translation and Interpretation Unit, which will allow the DOE 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.

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