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California Voters Overwhelmingly Repeal Restrictions on Bilingual Education

California Voters Overwhelmingly Repeal Restrictions on Bilingual Education

72.5 percent of California voters voted in favor of Proposition 58, a measure that lifts restrictions on bilingual education in the state’s public schools.

In 1998, Proposition 227 or “English for the Children” effectively outlawed bilingual education in schools by prohibiting the instruction of non-English languages.

According to Proposition 58’s summary, the measure:

”Preserves requirement that public schools ensure students obtain English language proficiency. Requires school districts to solicit parent/community input in developing language acquisition programs. Requires instruction to ensure English acquisition as rapidly and effectively as possible. Authorizes school districts to establish dual–language immersion programs for both native and non–native English speakers. Fiscal Impact: No notable fiscal effect on school districts or state government.”

In other words, schools have more flexibility when it comes to how to teach English Language Learners; while they may opt to offer English-only education, they are no longer restricted from also offering bilingual programs.

Supporters of Proposition 58 acknowledge the benefits of bilingual education and put faith in school districts to provide students with the best instructional methods for their learning needs.

Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the fastest and most efficient way for children to English is by being exposed to English-only education.

"A million or more immigrant schoolchildren were suddenly exposed to six or seven hours a day of English in their classrooms, quickly absorbing that new language 'like little sponges,' while still often spending the remainder of their childhood in an almost entirely Spanish-speaking neighborhood environment, ”said Ron Unz, architect of Proposition 227, on its effectiveness.

"Given such a truly ‘bilingual' upbringing, it’s hardly surprising that over the last decade or two so many of them have become fully bilingual young adults,” he said.

While many voters supported his ideology back in 1998, the overwhelming passage of Proposition 58 stands as testament to the fact that people are increasingly throwing support behind dual-language programs.

Supporters are hoping the removal of restrictions on dual-language programs will help English Language Learners, a group that typically underperforms throughout California, succeed.

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor


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