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Bilingual Education Ban May Be Overturned In California

FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2011 file photo, kindergarden students Gael Alvarado, left, Perla Ortiz, center, and Yahir Perez do s
FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2011 file photo, kindergarden students Gael Alvarado, left, Perla Ortiz, center, and Yahir Perez do school work in a bilingual English-Spanish class at Hanby Elementary School in Mesquite, Texas. Budget experts told Texas lawmakers on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, that the Texas Education Agency alone would lose $167.7 million in grants, due to the budget battle in Washington, mostly in cuts to public education programs. More than 285 schools will lose federal funding on July 1 for special education and classes to teach English as a second language. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

A law banning most bilingual education in California schools may be overturned by a new bill, restoring efforts to address language barriers in a state where nearly a quarter of students are English learners.

Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach/Huntington Park) announced SB 1174, the Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act, on Thursday for consideration on the 2016 ballot.

If passed, the bill will overturn Proposition 227, an initiative voters passed in 1998 requiring all students be “taught English by being taught in English” and requiring that English immersion programs last under a year. Upon the bill’s passage, Lara says enrollment in bilingual programs dropped from 39 percent in 1997 to 13 percent in 2001.

“In an increasingly interconnected global economy, we have to prepare our students for a future in which their success depends not only on an ability to understand diverse perspectives and cultures, but also on an ability to communicate in different languages,” Lara said in a press release. “Employers seek multilingual employees and all students -- English and non-English learners alike -- deserve access to this invaluable skill.”

California public schools educate 1.346 million English learners who constitute 21.6 percent of total enrollment, and 84 percent of those students are Spanish speakers, according to the California Department of Education.

Prop 227 allows for parents to sign a waiver allowing their children be taught in another language, but Lara says few parents are aware of this. Furthermore, these exceptions may only be made for children who already speak English, are at least 10 years old or have special needs.

But the story is different in San Francisco, where nearly 30 percent of the city's English-learning students are in bilingual education, due to a push by the district for parent waivers. And according to a recent study, it's working.

A study at Stanford commissioned by the San Francisco Unified School District found that non-native speakers in bilingual education programs like San Francisco's were equally as fluent in English by sixth grade regardless of whether they were fully immersed in it. Furthermore, the graduation rate for students enrolled in San Francisco bilingual education is 6 percent higher than the state’s 62 percent, according to the Chronicle.

With such research outcomes and an the increasing value placed on multilingual skills, there’s no sense in keeping other languages out of the classroom, the new bill’s proponents argue.

“Extensive research has shown that students who build strong biliteracy skills (in English and one or more other languages) have higher academic success, a foundation for increased salary earnings, and stronger cognitive skills as they grow older,” Jan Gustafson-Corea of the California Association for Bilingual Education said in the bill's press release.

“English will always remain the official language of California,” Lara said, “but we cannot ignore the growing need to have a multilingual workforce.”

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BEFORE YOU GO

  • 1 Because lots of Americans speak Spanish
    As of 2012, approximately 38.3 million people in the U.S. spoke&nbsp;Spanish at home, according to the <a href="http://www.ce
    Getty
    As of 2012, approximately 38.3 million people in the U.S. spoke Spanish at home, according to the U.S. Census. That's 13 percent of U.S. residents ages 5 and older. 
  • 2 Because a bunch of our states, cities and streets have Spanish names
    Nevada, Colorado, Los Angeles, Florida, Montana, San Antonio, California and Sacramento are all Spanish words or names. The l
    Getty
    Nevada, Colorado, Los Angeles, Florida, Montana, San Antonio, California and Sacramento are all Spanish words or names. The list goes on and on.
  • 3 Because Spanish was spoken in what is today the United States before English
    Spanish colonizers first set foot in the area that would become the United States in the 16th century, <a href="http://www.st
    Getty Images
    Spanish colonizers first set foot in the area that would become the United States in the 16th century, founding a permanent colony in St. Augustine, Florida, in 1565 -- well before the English set up Jamestown. All European languages, on the other hand, are more foreign to North America than Karuk, Cherokee, Natchez or the scores of other languages of the indigenous peoples of the continent.
  • 4 Because the U.S. has more Spanish speakers than Spain
    In 2013, the U.S. had the 5th largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. However, in 2015 it moved up to the <a href="
    Getty Images
    In 2013, the U.S. had the 5th largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. However, in 2015 it moved up to the number two spot behind Mexico.
  • 5 Because it’s the most-spoken language on the island of Puerto Rico
    And Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory whose inhabitants are U.S. citizens.
    Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
    And Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory whose inhabitants are U.S. citizens.
  • 6 Because the U.S. does not have an official language
    English is not the official language of the United States.&nbsp;Though <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/
    Getty Images
    English is not the official language of the United States. Though several states across the nation have adopted legislation establishing English as their official language, no such legislation has been adopted on a federal level.
  • 7 Because even English-speaking people use Spanish words on a daily basis
    Words like "cafeteria," "vanilla," and even "ranch" are derived from Spanish.&nbsp;
    Creatas via Getty Images
    Words like "cafeteria," "vanilla," and even "ranch" are derived from Spanish. 
  • 8 Because this Spanish-language network is a ratings beast
    Spanish broadcast network Univision regularly <a href="http://corporate.univision.com/2016/05/may-sweeps-to-date-univision-ra
    Photo by Alexander Tamargo/WireImage
    Spanish broadcast network Univision regularly outperforms English-language networks, especially on a local level. Univision stations in Los Angeles, New York, Houston and Sacramento closed out the May 2016 sweeps period as the most-watched early and late local newscasts among Adults ages 18-49, regardless of language.
  • 9 Because Spanish is becoming the second-most important language in politics
    Even candidates vying for political office recognize the fact that many of the nation's citizens speak Spanish, many releasin
    Getty
    Even candidates vying for political office recognize the fact that many of the nation's citizens speak Spanish, many releasing Spanish-language ads in an effort to connect with voters. 
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