New Laws Help English Learners

Published May 1, 2000

In the wake of court rulings upholding Proposition 227–which California voters approved to effectively end most of the state’s bilingual education programs–a number of innovative new laws have been passed to further benefit the state’s English learners.

One law, sponsored by State Senator Dede Alpert (D-San Diego), requires school districts to monitor the progress of English learners on an annual basis. It also requires the state Department of Education to develop a new assessment test to measure growth in English proficiency.

A second law, sponsored by another Democrat, Assemblywoman Denise Moreno Ducheny, rewards school districts with a one-time bonus of $100 for each English learner who is successfully reclassified as English proficient. This represents a novel approach to reforming a system in which funding streams like federal bilingual education grants provide school districts with no incentive to teach children English so they can transfer to mainstream classes.

Ducheny’s legislation addresses one of the primary concerns raised by Proposition 227’s supporters: the very low rate of graduation of English learners into mainstream classrooms. The year before the initiative was passed, this graduation rate was only 6 percent.