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Immigrant communities decry cuts in services

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

Local immigrant community representatives have called a community meeting to address recent School District cuts to immigrant student services.

The District’s elimination of an office charged with enforcing language access mandates and reaching out to immigrant and refugee communities sparked an angry protest from a group of twenty local immigrant community groups.

“These changes were made without any consultation,” said Regan Cooper of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition (PICC) in testimony at a January 17 School Reform Commission meeting. “Our communities need more services – not less.”

Members of African, Latino, and Asian communities testified to the SRC about the inadequacy of existing services and questioned cuts to what is a burgeoning population in the city. Immigrant community members say that this move was the latest in a string of declining services to immigrants. They cited the closure of newcomer centers and charged a lack of monitoring for quality language instruction.

District officials acknowledged the elimination of two central office staff positions but said that translation and outreach services have been absorbed by other departments.

CEO Paul Vallas agreed to attend the community meeting, scheduled for March 17. Among the group’s demands is an assessment of existing services to immigrant students, as well as a plan for improving services in ESOL and bilingual instruction, parent-school communication, dealing with interethnic violence, cultural sensitivity training, and curriculum diversity.

For information, contact PICC at 215-832-0809 or piccpa@yahoo.com.

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