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Please justify the proposal to add two .5 communication specialists for translation of Amharic and Spanish documents rather than the use of contractual translation services. What would be the cost savings if these services were provided by contract rather than additional FTE? What would be the programmatic impact if all the translation services provided by the 5 FTE in this office were obtained by contract? What would be the cost savings?

Question#: 1

BUDGET PAGE REFERENCE: Chapter 11-20

ANSWER:

In Fiscal Year (FY) 2006, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) committed to elevating the quality of translation services as part of its overall parent engagement strategy. A multi-year budget initiative was developed resulting in the creation of a unit that provides professional translation services to ensure that MCPS communicates information to parents and community members about curriculum, educational programs and services, assessment, instruction, and reporting with the same level of quality and efficiency that is afforded to English-speaking members of our community. One of the benefits of having employed translators in lieu of contractors is the ability to always ensure a high level of quality of translation services. To date, the Language Assistances Services Unit has been very effective in increasing the number of documents translated for our families. In addition to translation services, LASU also oversees interpretation services for the district and processes thousands of requests every year, as shown in the table below.

  Translation Services Face to Face Interpretation Services
Fiscal Year Number of Pages Translated Number of Languages Number of Requests Number of Languages
2015 as of Jan. 7, 2015 1,498 6 5,332 59
2014 2,812 8 11,604 62
2013 2,002 7 10,194 74
2012 1,731 12 8,966 65
2011 2,089 10 8,326 44

In addition, there are legal reasons to support a high quality in house translation unit. To maintain safe harbor against civil rights violations under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Executive Order 13166, the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) recommends providing language assistance services for those languages that are spoken by at least 1,000 persons, or at least five percent of an entity's population, whichever is less. Based on official ESOL enrollment data as of October 31, 2014, Amharic is now the third most commonly spoken language represented in the ESOL population, spoken by 902 ESOL students (3.83 percent the ESOL population). However, we know that many more families need Amharic translations than our ESOL families. For example, we typically provide about 2,000 copies to our schools in Amharic when we translate systemwide documents. Likewise, Spanish continues to be the most common language represented in the ESOL population, spoken by 15,924 students (67.55 percent of the ESOL population). However in general, we typically provide about 27,000 copies of documents in Spanish for our families who are native Spanish speakers.

This enhancment to add a .5 Amharic translator and a .5 Spanish translator, will benefit all MCPS schools and offices because of the increased capacity and range of services offered by LASU, which provides proven professional translation services, reducing the fragmentation, inefficiency, and inaccuracies that may result from translations completed by outside consultants. The increased demand for timely translation requests requires a more effective and efficient system that is dedicated to this task. The growing enrollment of Amharic-speaking students, approaching the number required to maintain "safe harbor" according to the opinion of the USDOJ, makes this expansion of the Translation Unit's range of languages important.

Since MCPS routinely requests translations in Amharic, the LASU must use outside contractors on a regular basis. In fact, the volume of these routine requests has resulted in the LASU exhausting several Amharic contractors, and has created significant delays in generating high quality, timely translations in Amharic. Hiring a 0.5 FTE Amharic translator will create more stable, effective, and efficient translations in Amharic. The demand for Spanish translation continues to increase as well and the number of translations requested in Spanish far exceeds those requested in any other language. Yet, there is only 1.0 FTE Spanish translator, resulting in the need to use several contractors to respond to the volume of routine and urgent translation requests in Spanish. This arrangement hampers our ability to provide efficient and effective translations in Spanish. An additional 0.5 FTE Spanish translator will provide much needed additional capacity in generating routine and emergency Spanish translations.

This translation service directly addresses the Board of Education's operating budget interests by meeting the needs of each individual child (in particular Latino and Ethiopian students), supporting community engagement efforts, and focusing on all students to ensure they have equity of access to materials so that outcomes are not predictable by race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. The additional two 0.5 FTE translators also will directly address the MCPS Strategic Planning Framework by meeting the core value of "relationships" by building strong relationships with students, family, staff, and community to support learning. The ability to distribute MCPS documents to students and families in the language spoken at home will help us prepare all students to thrive in their future.

The table below provides a summary of contract translation expenses for Spanish and Amharic from July 1, 2013 through January 7, 2015.

Spanish FY 2014 $15,950.00
Spanish FY 2015 as of January 7, 2015 $6,630.00
Grand Total for Spanish $22,580.00
Amharic FY 2014 $24,135.00
Amharic FY 2015 as of January 7, 2015 $11,985.00
Grand Total for Amharic $36,120.00

While there would not necessarily be cost savings associated with adding employees versus the continued use of contractors, we will be able to greatly increase the number of documents we are translating by having this additional capacity.

If all six translator positions were eliminated, it would reduce the budget by about $650,000. The programmatic impact of such a reduction would greatly diminish MCPS capacity to provide translated materials to our families for whom English is not their first language. This would hamper engagement efforts at a time when MCPS is seeking to increase familial involvement. In addition, the elimination of these positions also would put MCPS in jeopardy of non-compliance with federal law as discussed above.

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