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CT Senate to vote on bill to provide school translators for English language learners

Senate Chamber view, Capitol building, Senate Chamber, Connecticut State Capitol. (Photo by: David Underwood/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
David Underwood / Education Images
Universal Images Group Editorial
A vote is expected this week on a bill to translators in schools for families that don’t speak English as their native language.

The state Senate is set to vote this week on the Multilingual Bill of Rights. The bill would provide translators in schools for families that don’t speak English as their native language.

The Multilingual Bill of Rights, once known as the English Language Learner’s Bill of Rights, would require school boards to provide translation services whenever requested. Supporters say translators would be beneficial during critical interactions such as parent-teacher conferences and meetings with school administrators.

An interpreter would be available in-person at the school or via a phone or a zoom call. It’s an important move for school districts with bilingual programs across the state, according to Hamish MacPhail, policy and research director at ConnCAN.

“This allows districts to understand what the implication of the bill is and how to either hire an interpreter in house, if you have one predominant language that a lot of your students speak, or contract with a service that does interpretation for a whole bunch of languages,” McPhail said.

The Senate has until Wednesday to make a decision about the bill. If it is passed in the Senate and signed by the governor, the bill will take effect at the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

Advocates say the bill has bipartisan support and conversations about the likelihood of its passage have been optimistic.

If passed, districts would have until 2024 to send home information notifying parents about the translation services provided in their native language.

Imelda Barajas, a parent who only speaks Spanish, says she feels hopeful for the future of this bill. Her son is in high school and she says that it’s about time schools addressed how difficult it can be for parents who do not speak English to communicate with school officials.

“They only speak English so when I arrive at the school, they’ve called me because they want to tell me something about him, or that there’s going to be a basketball tournament or that there’s gonna be a school trip, and they look for someone to interpret for me because they don’t speak Spanish,” Barajas said.

“They always look for the secretary or the social worker who speaks very little Spanish but not 100%. That’s the problem.”

Lesley Cosme Torres is an Education Reporter at Connecticut Public. She reports on education inequities across the state and also focuses on Connecticut's Hispanic and Latino residents, with a particular focus on the Puerto Rican community. Her coverage spans from LGBTQ+ discrimination in K-12 schools, book ban attempts across CT, student mental health concerns, and more. She reports out of Fairfield county and Hartford.

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