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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Other Events Making News In Kentucky: Kentucky To Offer Written Driver’s Test In English Only. Read More.

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Ky. to offer written driver’s test in English only
By Valarie Honeycutt Spears

People who don’t know English well enough to pass a written test won’t be able to get a driver’s license in Kentucky under a new policy that goes into effect June 1.

Kentucky has offered its written drivers test in 22 languages for several years, but the test will now only be offered in English, according to Kentucky State Police Captain Tim Lucas.

Lucas explained the change in a May 7 internal memo to drivers testing branch employees by citing high costs and the fact that “there are no state laws or regulations that require us to give written tests in other languages.”

In addition, Lucas told the Herald-Leader Tuesday that the translated tests have not been updated over the years as changes were made to the English version. Also, state police officials giving the tests in foreign languages can’t read the tests and must grade them using answer keys provided in the past by translators, Lucas said.

The Rev. Pat Delahanty, a long-time advocate for refugees in Kentucky, says the policy change will only add to the number of people driving without a license, since those who don’t speak English still will have to work and support their families.

“Refugees fleeing from persecution and death do not have time to learn English,” said Delahanty, associate director of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky. “When the U. S. brings them here they require them to go to work, which often means being able to drive.”

State Rep. Tommy Thompson, D-Owensboro, said constituents who were concerned about the policy called him Friday and asked him to review the change. Thompson said he will look into the matter.

The issue of providing written driver’s tests in English only has created controversy in other states recently.

Legislation that would require English only written tests failed last month in Georgia and in 2008 in Alabama. A bill that would limit the written test to five languages is currently stalled in the Tennessee General Assembly.

People opposing the legislation in those states have voiced a concern that Delahanty shares: limiting the test to English only may violate the federal Civil Rights Act.

Delahanty said the KSP may be jeopardizing federal money it receives for various programs because the Civil Rights Act requires them to provide their services to everyone, not just those who can speak and read English.

But Lucas, the commander of the driver’s testing division, said KSP legal officials reviewed the new policy and found no problems under state or federal law.

“It’s not meant to be discriminatory,” Lucas said of the change. Offering the test in English only conforms with a state law that requires KSP to apply the same policy to all people, he said.

Currently, the Kentucky Driver’s Manual is written in English only and not offered in any other language. Also, the road signs test and the motorcycle and commercial drivers license tests are offered only in English.
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