When bilingual education vanished from California classrooms in 1998, so did countless opportunities for generations of students. Today, one in five California students is an English language learner and opportunities for multilingual speakers continue to flourish in the job market. It’s clearly time for a change.
In 1998, Prop 227 effectively banned bilingual education from California’s classrooms. The law stipulated that California students receive a “sheltered English” education, resulting in millions of students losing the opportunity to learn or maintain valuable literacy skills in their native language. For nearly two decades, this outdated law has restricted the methods teachers can use in the classroom to teach English.
Prop 58 will bring a much needed update to our current system, benefiting students across the state. In its endorsement of Prop 58, the Los Angeles Times Editorial Board described the impact Prop 58 will have on California classrooms:
Proposition 58 seeks to overturn the 1998 edict, providing more flexibility to schools and parents to choose how to teach English learners. Schools would no longer be required to teach them in English-only programs unless parents specifically requested otherwise, but could offer a variety of programs, including bilingual ones. Parents of English-language learners would no longer need to sign waivers to allow their children to participate in bilingual programs.
Californians need Proposition 58 in order for our children to be successful in the classroom and in the job market after they graduate. Research shows children in both monolingual and multilingual households excel academically when they are part of dual-language programs. In addition, one cannot argue that children fluent in more than one language will have expanded economic opportunities.
Many unions, school boards, teachers, community organizations and newspapers are in support of this proposition. The California Teachers Association notes the proposition will help children master a secondary language, allow students to compete in a global economy, restore local control to schools, and give parents a bigger voice.
The San Francisco Chronicle is also in support, emphasizing the benefit of more local control afforded in Prop 58: “school districts would have to formally ask parents for their views on the best ways to teach English”.
Born to an immigrant family, State Senator Ricardo Lara feels strongly about this proposition. “We have non-educators dictating how we teach, in a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Lara, who worked for two years to bring Prop. 58 to the ballot. “We should give that right back to the teachers, who are the experts.”
Prop 227 has had a detrimental effect on our state for far too long. While 66% of the global population is multilingual, the U.S. falls behind with only 20%. We cannot afford to continue down this path.
California Labor strongly recommends a YES vote on this proposition. Learn more about Prop 58 here.
For a full list of California Labor’s 2016 endorsements, visit our Endorsements page here.
This is a part of California Labor’s Top Props, a blog series on priority propositions for working Californians. Click here to see other posts in the series.