Proposition 58 seeks to repeal most of Proposition 227 from 1998, which prohibited the use of non-English languages in the state’s public schools.
Proposition 58 is also designed to require that school districts and county offices of education provide English learners with a structured English immersion program. With Proposition 227, teachers were required to teach “Limited English Proficient” (LEP) students predominantly in English, and the length of special classes for LEP students was shortened. The proposition minimized the amount of bilingual educational classes in most cases.
With Proposition 58, the concept that public schools ensure that students become proficient in English would be upheld. It also requires that schools are not restricted in how they can teach students but instead are able to use the most up-to-date teaching methods possible to help students learn. It also requires school districts to solicit parent and community input, when developing language acquisition programs in order to ensure that students learn English as quickly and effectively as possible.
Additionally, this measure would allow the legislature to reestablish Spanish-almost only instruction in public schools by a simple majority vote. Proposition 58 also authorizes school districts to establish dual-language immersion programs for both native and non-native students.
Bottom line: the English-only mandate in California public schools would be loosened so that non-English speaking students could learn English while maintaining their native language.
But opponents say that’s not such a good thing.
Background on Proposition 58 and the old Proposition 227
Proposition 58 is sponsored in the California State Legislature by State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-33) as Senate Bill 1174, or the Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act.
The bill passed the legislature largely along party lines. In the House, all yes votes came from Democratic legislators and all but two no votes came from Republican legislators.
In the Senate, all no votes came from Republican legislators while all but three yes votes came from Democratic legislators.
Proposition 227 (the English Language in Public Schools Statute), also known as the English for the Children Act, was introduced by Ron Unz, a software entrepreneur in Silicon Valley, and Gloria Mata Tuchman, a teacher in Santa Ana. The statute called for changes to the approach used to teach Limited English Proficient (LEP) students in California public schools. This included requiring that special classes be taught predominantly in English and shortening the time that LEP students were in special classes before moving to regular classes.
According to the state’s website, there would be no notable fiscal impact from Proposition 58.
Support and opposition
Supporters of Proposition 58 include a variety of immigration and educational organizations, such as the California Association for Bilingual Education, Council on Teacher Education, California Immigrant Policy Center, California Language Teachers Association, United Teachers Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Office of Education.
Supporters say the measure would allow all students to become proficient in English as quickly as possible by encouraging schools to use instruction programs rather than expand multicultural education, thereby offering English speakers the chance to learn a second language.
That’s important, say supporters, because studies show that students who participate in program taught in more than one language attain higher levels of economic achievement, and in a global economy, being able to speak more than one language provides an advantage in the work force.
Opponents are led by Keep English for the Children and includes Ron Unz, who drafted Proposition 227 in 1998, and Mauro E. Mujica, the chairperson of the organization U.S. English. The only other opponent officially listed is the Republican Party.
Through the Keep English for the Children campaign, opponents say, Proposition 58 actually repeals the requirement that children be taught English in California public schools. “It’s all a trick by the Sacramento politicians to fool the voters, who overwhelmingly passed Proposition 227, the English for the Children initiative in 1998,” claims the organization’s campaign rhetoric.
A Yes vote on this measure means: Public schools could more easily choose how to teach English learners, whether in English-only, bilingual or other types of programs.
A No vote on this measure means: Public schools would still be required to teach most English learners in English-only programs.