California Bilingual Education Amendment (2016)

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The California Bilingual Education Amendment (Senate Bill 1174) may be on the November 8, 2016 ballot in California as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment.

The proposed amendment, upon ballot qualification and voter approval, would repeal 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 proposed constitutional amendment is 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."




  • California Association for Bilingual Education[2]
  • Californians Together


  • Phillip M. Carter, Ph.D., is a sociolinguist and scholar of language at Florida International University


Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-33), the amendment's legislative sponsor, argued the following:[3]

  • “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:[4]

  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."


Ron Unz, who developed Proposition 227, criticized the pending constitutional amendment. 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."[5]


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


  • Mauro E. Mujica, U.S. English Chairman, 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."[6]

Path to the ballot

See also: Amending the California Constitution

The timeline for Senate Bill 1174 is:[7]

See also

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