For Immediate Release
July 1, 2015
Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun
Over 70 Witnesses Support Grosso’s Bill to Expand Language Access
Washington, D.C. -- Today, Councilmembers David Grosso (I-At-Large), Kenyan McDuffie, and Council Chairman Phil Mendelson convened a joint hearing on the “Language Access for Education Amendment Act of 2015.” Grosso introduced this bill in February, to strengthen existing law by increasing the standards of language access for all education and government services for all of our non-English proficient residents.
Since the original Language Access Act became law, the D.C. immigrant population has grown rapidly, with over 85,000 immigrants now living in the city. “Non-proficient English language speakers should not have to face such extreme communication burdens like those we heard about today,” said Grosso. “True language access provides everyone access to respect, dignity, and greater participation in all of the programs that the city offers.”
Over 70 public witnesses testified during the hearing, with many residents sharing personal stories of barriers they have faced in accessing government agency and public education services due to the lack of language access. The hearing was timely, coming a few weeks after the National Academy of Sciences released the long anticipated evaluation report on the Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007, which included the finding that English language learners were more likely than other students to score the lowest in academic performance categories.
The legislation will require all local education agencies to have an English as a Second Language certified member on their staff and for materials and online content to be published in the top covered languages by OSSE, the Deputy Mayor for Education, and all local education agencies.
Grosso stated, “I believe that sections of this legislation that address public and public charter school language access is a step in the right direction toward working together as a government and community to identify the need, address it head on, and come up with a meaningful solution–together.”
If you or someone you know has a language access complaint, please call the D.C. Office of Human Rights at 202-727-4559 or send an e-mail to OHR@dc.gov.