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An 'English Learners' Bill of Rights' would support over 5,000 Bridgeport students

Governor Ned Lamont.
Molly Ingram
/
WSHU
Governor Ned Lamont.

Governor Ned Lamont wants to make it easier for Connecticut students to learn English as a secondary language.

He has proposed the English Learners' Bill of Rights, which would establish better communication between school and home and allow students to transfer if their district does not have proper classes.

Almost 50,000 Connecticut students speak English as a secondary language.

Lamont said Connecticut kids should be guaranteed a good education, no matter what language they speak.

“I’ve got to make sure that each and every one of your kids knows they are welcome in our schools, no questions asked,” Lamont said. “I want mom and dad to be able to communicate with the teacher, make sure they have all the information they need to get the very best education.”

An advocate holds a sign that reads "education is a right, no more gaps."
Molly Ingram
/
WSHU
An advocate holds a sign that reads "education is a right, no more gaps."

The Lamont administration has put forth the following rules for the proposed English Learners' Bill of Rights:

  • The right of an English learner student to attend public school regardless of immigration status;
  • The right of an English learner student to have a translator present at critical interactions with teachers and administrators, such as parent-teacher conferences and meetings with administrators;
  • The right of an English learner student to participate in a program of bilingual education when there are 20 or more eligible students classified as dominant in a language other than English;
  • The right of a parent or guardian of an English learner student to receive written notice, in both English and their dominant language, that such student is eligible to participate in a program of bilingual education;
  • The right of an English learner student and their parent or guardian to receive a high-quality orientation session in their dominant language;
  • The right of the parent or guardian of an English learner student to receive information about the progress of such student’s English language development and acquisition and meet with school personnel to discuss these matters;
  • The right of an English learner student to be placed in a program of bilingual education or English as a new language, if offered by the school district;
  • The right of an English learner student to have equal access to all grade-level school programming and all core grade-level subject matter;
  • The right of an English learner student to receive annual language proficiency testing;
  • The right of an English learner student to receive support services aligned with any intervention plan that the school or school district provides to all students;
  • The right of an English learner student to be continuously and annually enrolled in a program of bilingual education or English as a new language while such student remains an eligible student; and
  • The right of a parent or guardian of an English learner student to contact the State Department of Education with any questions or concerns about such student’s right to receive English learner services or accommodations.

Irene Parisi is the chief academic officer for the state Department of Education. She said the rules would ensure families are given equal educational opportunities.

“It is imperative that we empower all of our English learners, and the families across the state, to be active and engaged members of the school community,” Parisi said. “And this new legislation does just that.”

Make the Road Connecticut, an advocacy group, hosted a press conference on Monday to support the bill.

Barbara Lopez is the director at Make the Road Connecticut. She said the group has been advocating for this since 2016.

“These are members who really believe that they deserve to be in a space in their schools where they can understand the education of their children so they can be incorporated and make sure that their children's thrive, not just survive,” Lopez said.

Make the Road Connecticut advocates with local and state lawmakers.
Molly Ingram
/
WSHU
Make the Road Connecticut advocates with local and state lawmakers.

The bill has been referred to the Education Committee.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.