In November, voters will decide on Proposition 58, the “English Proficiency and Multilingual Education Initiative.” If passed, it would give California school districts the ability to teach non-native English speakers with the program that it finds most effective and without the need for parental authorization. Parents could still influence how their child is taught under Prop 58 by requesting all English immersion, which the school would be required to provide.
The proposition states that schools would be responsible for teaching English and requires districts to allow parent and community input in the development of programs. School districts, communities and parents would be able to join in on the conversation of how children who are native and non-native English speakers should be educated.
According to the California Department of Education there were approximately 1.37 million English learners in the state during the 2015-2016 school year. It only makes sense that schools adopt programs to better educate these students.
The California Teachers Association and Governor Jerry Brown both support the initiative along with other teacher’s associations.
The current law, Prop 227, requires schools to teach non-native English speakers in English and restricts bilingual programs. Under this law parents who want their children to learn in a bilingual setting must sign waivers to have their child considered for a specific program. In order to be considered students must meet certain requirements.
Inez Kaminski, spokesperson for Prop 58, said that the waiver process was not effective due to long waiting lists and schools often not having bilingual programs.
“Voters should vote yes on Prop 58 because it gives parents the ability to choose a language acquisition program that best suits their child and because Prop 58 requires schools to offer language education methods that suit and fit the language needs of our community,” Kaminski said. “We should be in charge in the first place of language education in our state.”
Opponents claim Prop 58 would allow schools to establish “Spanish-almost-only” programs that would set back Latino students.
Proposition 58 is not just about offering classes in Spanish, the idea is to have a multilingual education in classrooms where students can learn different languages.
“It’s problematic to think of Proposition 58 as in conflict with the prioritization of English language proficiency standards,” Kaminski said.
Programs under Prop 58 would give students who are English learners the opportunity to become proficient in English but also keep their native language. Multilingual education benefits native and non-native English speakers by increasing their proficiency in English and another language.
Opening multilingual education to students at a young age would set them up for success as they pursue higher education because most high schools and universities have language requirements. The California Education Code establishes that high school students must complete a language requirement or some sort of visual preforming art. At San Diego State, students who are pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in liberal arts and sciences must take courses in a language other than English.
Voting yes on Prop 58 would give children better opportunities in a state and country that is home to many different cultures and languages.