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Gallagher, protesters differ on bill for school translations

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"Shame on you, Gallagher!" chanted more than a dozen activists from an immigration advocacy group, Make the Road by Walking, shortly after berating the councilman to his face. "What do we want?" They hollered in English and Spanish."Translation!""Where do we want it!""In schools!" The group, which rode a school bus from its office in Bushwick, Brooklyn took issue with Gallagher's criticism of a City Council bill introduced in September that would require documents like report cards and detention slips to be translated into parents' native language within 24 hours of a formal request. The Education Equity Act of 2004 would cost the city an estimated $20 million a year by making the school system pay for increased translation services. "One of the core indicators of a student's academic success is parent involvement," said Andrew Friedman, co-director of Make the Road. "It (the bill) will increase parent involvement. It will help make parents allies in the process of education for all of New York City's children." A handful of other Queens councilmen apparently agree. The bill, which was referred to the education committee in September, is sponsored by Hiram Monserrate (D-Jackson Heights); John Liu (D-Flushing); Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans); Diana Reyna (D-Ridgewood); Helen Sears (D-Jackson Heights) and David Weprin (D-Hollis).But Gallagher said the law would be an expensive, logistical nightmare that would overburden taxpayers. The money could be better spent on English language lessons for foreign parents, textbooks, additional paraprofessionals and teacher raises, he said. He likened it to a "Pandora's box" that would force the city to translate other documents. "Where do we stop? Does every parking ticket have to be written in multiple languages or every street sign?" he asked. "Great nations, no matter how ethnically diverse, have a common bond that unites its people ... That common bond is language and we should do everything in our power to encourage that commonality rather than destroy it." But when he stepped outside and tried to explain that to the throng, they shouted him down, pointed their fingers at him and called him a racist. Gallagher thanked them for coming and went back inside. "I'm going to continue to oppose it. I believe I'm right on many levels. Unfortunately, they were unwilling to hear this," he said. "I welcomed them out there. I gave them coffee out there. I wish they would have showed a little more respect."Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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