California Gives School Districts More Power to Teach Bilingual Education

Published January 23, 2017

California public school districts will have more power to offer bilingual education when the California Non-English Languages Allowed in Public Education Act takes effect in July 2017.

The act, known as Proposition 58, gained approval from 73 percent of voters in the November 2016 election. Proposition 58 repeals a portion of Proposition 227, an initiative approved by 61 percent of voters in 1998 mandating students take English-only classes unless parents sign a waiver requesting their children be placed in such non-English classes.

Proposition 58 will go into effect in July 2017 and will allow public schools to offer students bilingual classes without explicit permission from their parents.

‘Proposition 227 Worked’

Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, says Proposition 58 will not improve newcomers’ English skills.

“Proposition 227 worked,” Sand said. “Parents were happy their kids were learning the language of the country they lived in quicker than before. Dual-language programs, in which most of the instruction is in Spanish, were never outlawed by Proposition 227. That initiative asked parents who wanted to place their children in non-English classes to sign an annual waiver. Turns out the overwhelming majority of parents wanted their children taught in English.”

Proposition 58 stated increasing English proficiency as its goal, instead of admitting it paves the way for children to be forced into non-English classes, Sand says.  

“It is unknown how many people voted in favor of Proposition 58 because of the deceptive title,” Sand said.

‘More than One Learning Option’

Jonathan Butcher, The Goldwater Institute’s education director, says families deserve choice.

“This [proposition] doesn’t answer the question of what is the best method to help [English Language Learner] students, but lawmakers must keep the importance of giving parents and children more than one learning option front and center,” Butcher said.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.