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Prop 58: English Language Education

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Updated at 1:30 PM on Nov. 9, 2016


Prop 58 has passed by a margin of 72.4% yes and 27.6% no. It allows schools to choose between bilingual classes or English-immersion classes to teach English to non-English speaking students.

What would Prop 58 do?

Prop 58 deals with how we teach English to non-English speaking students in our public schools. Most of the students affected by this are Spanish-speakers. There 1.4 million of them in California, so this would impact many children.

Prop 58 would:

  • Give schools districts more flexibility in how they teach English learners.  
  • It would make it easier for schools to offer both bilingual and English immersion classes.
  • It would require schools to get input from parents and their communities about what languages they would like taught and what methods should be used.
  • It would encourage school districts to provide classes in foreign languages to English speaking students, including “dual immersion” programs. That’s when classes are taught in two languages to students who want to learn both languages.

How did Prop 58 come about?

You may be wondering “Why can’t schools offer bilingual classes now?”  Because back in 1998 voters passed Prop 227.  It required English immersion classes.  Supporters said too many Spanish-speaking students were not learning English fast enough or well enough in bilingual classes.  They said English-only classes would serve students better. So bilingual classes, for the most part, went away.

That was almost 20 years ago.  Supporters of Prop 58 say it’s time for some changes.

Who supports Prop 58 and what are their arguments?

Prop 58 was put on the ballot by the state legislature. The key sponsor is State Senator Ricard Lara  from Bell Gardens. The initiative passed mainly along party lines with Democrats supporting it and Republicans against it.

Prop 58 is also supported by Los Angeles and San Francisco school districts, the LA Chamber of Commerce and the California Teachers Association, among other groups.

Supporters say:

  • Prop 227 is nearly two decades old and restricts schools from using newer methods to teach English.
  • Prop 58 still assures that students master the English language.
  • Prop 58 lets schools choose between bilingual classes or English-immersion classes when appropriate.
  • It gives parents and communities a greater say in which languages are taught and the methods used to teach them.
  • Research shows students taught in more than one language do better academically. 
  • Being multi-lingual is an advantage in today’s global economy and California is home to 100’s of multinational businesses.
  • Prop 58 also encourages school districts to offer all students – including native English speakers -- more opportunities to learn a 2nd language.  

Who opposes Prop 58 and what are their arguments?

The main opponent of Prop 58 is Ron Unz. He a well-known conservative who succeeded in getting Prop 227 passed. Prop 227 was the anti-bilingual education initiative that passed with 61% of the vote in 1998.

Opponents say:

  • Prop 58 would repeal the requirement that students be taught English in public schools.
  • It would overturn teaching requirements that have improved language education.
  • It would lift restrictions on the California legislature giving it authority to re-institute classes conducted almost entirely in Spanish.
  • English-only classes are the best way for immigrant children to learn English. Since Prop 227 took effect, test scores have risen and more Latino students have been admitted to colleges.
  • Even famed teacher, Jaime Escalante, was a big supporter of Prop 227 that rescued students from a Spanish-only “ghetto.”
  • The parents of immigrant students also prefer immersion classes because their children learn English faster. 

What kind of money is involved?

What does a “yes” or “no” vote mean?

A “yes” vote would make it easier for public schools to offer language instruction in bilingual and English-immersion classes.

A “no” vote means things stay as they are, requiring English-immersion as the primary way to teach English learners.

Click here for a cheat sheet on all the California ballot propositions.

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