“A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.” ~Barry Goldwater
By Alden Benton
Approximately 2.7 million California students in grades K-12 speak a language other than English at home. About 1.4 million of these students (51.8%) are not fluent in English. California classifies these students are as English learners.
English learners comprise 22 per cent of the more than 6 million public school students in California. More than 80 per cent of the English learners, more than 1.1 million students, have Spanish as their native language.
In 1998, Californians approved Proposition 227, the current law regarding the teaching of English learners. That law required English learners be taught in English only, restricted the use of bilingual programs, and requires one year of intensive English instruction before placing English learners in English-only classes.
Current law requires an administrative process before parents can enroll an English learner student in a bilingual program by seeking approval of a waiver.
For waiver approval, the student must have attended an English-only classroom for at least 30 days and the teachers, principal and district superintendent must all agree that the student would learn better in a bilingual program. If the English learner student did not meet that requirement, the student is still eligible for approval if the student is at least 10 years old or, is already fluent in English.
However, even if a student meets these requirements and gets their waiver approved, 20 or more students (in any grade) must receive waivers before their school must offer a bilingual program or allow students to transfer to a school that has a bilingual program.
In 1997, about 30 per cent of English learners were in bilingual programs. California enacted the current law in 1998 and, by 2007, only 5 per cent of English learners were in bilingual programs.
Proposition 58 asks voters to repeal the requirement that English learners be taught in English-only programs.
Parents may request placing their children in English-only programs. This measure eliminates the waiver requirement for parents to enroll their child in a bilingual program.
If enough parents request any type of English learner program not offered, Proposition 58 forces school districts to offer it. However, this measure requires that 20 or more parents of children in a single grade, or 30 or more parents overall, request a program before the school must offer that program.
Proposition 58 requires schools and school districts communicate with parents regarding English learner programs in their annual planning process.
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