Cultural liaisons are a go-between for families (primarily those with limited English proficiency, LEP) and school and town staff. They have been brought on in both the Burlington and Winooski school districts, and they have been hard at work helping families with everything from filing taxes to accessing social services and building trust in our government to getting kids to class on time.
Liaisons are a vital component of our communities working with LEP families all year long, bringing them together with the community. And they work tirelessly to foster relationships and provide support to families — regardless of school hours. Because the holistic and overarching nature of their work, they provide vital services far beyond hours for which they are paid. That leads them to be overworked and sorely undercompensated. This year, Senator Kesha Ram introduced a bill that would change that.
We at VPIRG are proud to support this important initiative to facilitate cultural liaisons, which passed the Senate last week! S. 115 is a miscellaneous education bill — facilitating cultural liaisons is one of four key initiatives within. The bill would also make menstrual products freely and widely available in all school facilities across the state, create and fund a study committee to evaluate the status of our public libraries, and revamp wellness programs in schools.
This is a consequential, important bill for improving equity and access in our schools.
The provision facilitating cultural liaisons would allow schools to fund these positions jointly with the municipality, ensuring that cultural liaisons are compensated for the work they do year-round. In a recent interview for Seven Days, the Burlington School District Commissioner Aden Haji said “Without liaisons, the district would fall apart it’s as simple as that.” And, as VPR reporting makes clear, the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly increased their workload (from an already untenable level).
The liaisons are an invaluable resource to these families and to communities at large, and they need to be properly compensated for the work they are doing. This bill will ensure that communities are setting up sustainable systems to enable this vital work to continue while starting to properly remunerating these individuals.
These liaisons play a key role in facilitating communication between families, municipalities, and community organizations and help reconcile differences in cultural perspectives and understandings.
They foster vital connections between families with limited English proficiency and the larger community while contributing significantly to students’ school performance and sense of belonging. This measure will promote diversity and inclusion in Vermont, making it a more welcoming place for people of all backgrounds to live and raise a family.