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English language learning parents call for translation and interpretation services across CT schools

Members of the ELL Students and Parents Success Education coalition
Maricarmen Cajahuaringa
Connecticut Public
Members of the English Language Learners Students and Parents Success Education coalition meet with reporters Jan. 25, 2023, inside the state Capitol.

A new coalition of immigrant rights groups and parents held a news conference Wednesday at the Hall of Flags in the state Capitol demanding support for language equity in the education system.

State Rep. Antonio Felipe (D-Bridgeport) and Rep. Juan Candelaria (D-New Haven) are sponsoring “ELL Students and Parents Success” in Bill 6211 to add a list of services that parents need to close the language barrier between schools and families to guarantee students’ educational success.

Activists say that several languages are spoken across the 172 school districts in the state. Many parents are English language learners (ELL) who have difficulties communicating and participating in their children's education.

Luis Ortiz, the state grassroots manager at CONNCAN, said Connecticut's schools must have adequate translation and interpretation resources for parents and families.

“Imagine if you didn’t understand what the teacher is telling you about your child — that’s what’s happening. The households are not having proper communication; therefore, the parents don’t know what to actually do to help their child improve.”

The proposal asks the state to provide critical supports for English language learning families, such as registering their children in school districts regardless of their immigration status, support services aligned with any intervention plans and qualified translation and interpretation in all content and communication.

Gracie Perez, a mother of three children in the Hartford public schools, shared a letter about her experience navigating the education system. She said she has been called an irresponsible parent for not sending signed forms in on time.

“Parents that do not speak English do not have rights to be involved in their child's education,” Perez said. “We deserve to have these rights. So that we can ensure that our children are receiving the best education possible.”

In March 2021, Congress approved the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund to help state education departments and school districts. Connecticut was awarded nearly $1.7 billion.

Ortiz argues that the state of Connecticut has to clarify how the school districts have been spending that money.

“The reality is that when this conversation happened, they deliberately made it difficult for parents and the communities to be part of this conversation,” Ortiz said. “Therefore, when we are talking about a set number that they were gonna be receiving, and how they were gonna use these funds, input from the community was really never taken.”

Felipe said that it is critically important for people to learn in their own languages. “We just want to make sure, as we go forward, every language is represented, every language is respected, and everybody gets the same opportunity they deserve," he said.

Although legislators sponsoring the bill had no date for when the Education Committee might take up the bill, the coalition said it wanted the proposal discussed this legislative session.

Maricarmen Cajahuaringa is a journalist with extensive experience in Latino communities' politics, social issues, and culture. She founded Boceto Media, a digital Spanish-language newspaper based in Connecticut. Maricarmen holds a Bachelor's in Social Work from Springfield College, and a Master's in Journalism and Media Production from Sacred Heart University. As a reporter for Connecticut Public, she is dedicated to delivering accurate and informative coverage of the Hispanic/Latino population in the region. Maricarmen is an experienced and passionate journalist who strives to bring a voice to the stories of her community.

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