California Multilingual Education Act (2016)

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The California Multilingual Education Act (Senate Bill 1174) may be on the November 8, 2016 ballot in California as a legislatively-referred state statute.

The proposed measure, upon voter approval, would repeal most of the 1998 Proposition 227, the "English in Public Schools" Initiative, thus effectively allowing non-English languages to be used in public educational instruction.[1]

The measure would repeal the sheltered English immersion requirement and waiver provisions required by Proposition 227, and instead require that school districts and county offices of education shall provide English learners with a structured English immersion program.[2]

The proposed measure was sponsored in the California Legislature by State Senator Ricardo Lara (D-33) as Senate Bill 1174 or the Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act.

Support

Supporters

Officials

The measure was sponsored by the following officials in the legislature:[2]

Organizations

  • California Association for Bilingual Education[3]
  • Californians Together

Individuals

  • Phillip M. Carter, Ph.D., sociolinguist at Florida International University

Arguments


Sen. Lara (D-33) unveiling the bill to the media in April 2014.

Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-33), the measure's legislative sponsor, argued the following:[4]

  • “Given the diversity of California, the vast body of research on the benefits of language-immersion programs, and the growing popularity of these schools, clearly public perception has changed on the value of multilingual education programs.”
  • “California has the largest economy in the country, and in order to keep climbing, its workforce needs to be fully prepared with the appropriate skill sets.”

Dr. Phillip M. Carter, a sociolinguist professor and scholar of language at Florida International University, wrote an op-ed calling for the repeal of Proposition 227. He criticized the proposition, saying, "Looking back, it's clear that restrictive language policies such as Proposition 227 have been problematic all along, but in our era of globalization, education that seeks to eradicate the native bilingualism of its students makes less sense than ever in economic and sociocultural terms." He argued that opposition to bilingual education is largely based on refutable myths:[5]

  1. "Myth No. 1: Latinos in the U.S. do not want to / cannot / will not learn English: Social science data show that Latinos learn English at a rate as fast or faster than that of prior immigrant groups."
  2. "Myth No. 2: Speaking Spanish at school detracts from learning English: This belief is premised on a false dichotomy that pits knowing Spanish against learning English. Fortunately, for non-language-impaired children, knowing one language is not a roadblock in the acquisition of another. In fact, some evidence suggests that policies restricting the use of the home language actually have negative effects on the acquisition of literacy skills in English."
  3. "Myth No. 3: Children will simply learn Spanish in the home: People tend to think language can be acquired just by receiving enough inputs to "crack the code" -- that hearing mom and dad speaking Spanish is enough. But language is much more than the sum of its rules. Language is also the identity you make in it -- the experiences, the relationships, and the memories that come from using the language across many contexts. In many U.S. Latino communities, receptive bilingualism -- a pattern in which parents speak to children in Spanish, who respond in English -- is common. While comprehension is an important language skill, speech production and literacy skills are equally necessary for jobs in the growing bilingual labor market."
  4. "Myth No. 4: Spanish is taking over U.S. schools: While it is true that the overall number of Spanish speakers in the U.S. is expected to increase, this is due to new immigration. U.S. language history shows that immigrant languages are mostly or completely lost by the third generation. Research shows that Spanish is being lost across generations at roughly the same rate as previous immigrant languages such as Italian and Dutch."

Opposition

Ron Unz, who developed Proposition 227, criticized the legislative referral. He said, "The proposal is totally ridiculous and demonstrates that Sen. Lara has never bothered to investigate the issue. The academic performance of over a million immigrant students roughly doubled in the four years following the passage of Proposition 227."[6]

Opponents

  • Ron Unz, advocate for Proposition 227
  • Mauro E. Mujica, U.S. English Chairperson

Arguments

Mauro E. Mujica, U.S. English chairperson, encouraged the legislature to reject SB 1174, saying:

Being surrounded by English speakers has been shown to lead to faster proficiency among non-English speakers. Furthermore, being surrounded by other foreign language speakers has been shown to delay English acquisition. The ability to learn a foreign language is an advantage and should be encouraged among students -- I myself speak four languages. But in the United States, English proficiency should be the primary objective. Without it, students will face a life struggling with language barriers. Conversely, with a strong base of English proficiency, the doors of opportunity will open to them. I urge the California State Senate to oppose SB 1174 and continue making it their priority to assist English language learner students to acquire English proficiency as soon as possible.

[7]

—Mauro E. Mujica[8]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing legislative tampering in California

The California State Legislature may not amend or repeal an approved initiative without submitting the change to voters. Since Proposition 227 was approved in 1998, the legislature cannot amend or repeal the statute without submitting the change to voters. Senate Bill 1174 is meant to do just that.

The timeline for Senate Bill 1174 is:[9]

Assembly vote

August 25, 2014 Assembly vote

California SB 1174 Assembly Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 53 67.09%
No2632.91%

Senate vote

August 26, 2014 Senate vote

California SB 1174 Senate Vote
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 25 71.43%
No1028.57%

Related measures

See also

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