English-Language Learners

California Voters Repeal Ban on Bilingual Education

By Corey Mitchell — November 08, 2016 1 min read
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California voters have reversed a long-time ban on bilingual education in the state, rolling back a law passed 18 years ago that required “English-only” instruction for all students, including those who aren’t native speakers of the language.

The Associated Press reported that voters overwhelmingly favored the ballot measure—with more than 72 percent of voters supporting it.

Tuesday’s passage of Proposition 58 means that the state’s public schools are now free of any restrictions on using various forms of bilingual education, most notably for teaching the state’s 1.5 million English-language learners.

The ballot measure essentially repeals Proposition 227, the 1998 law that made it tougher for districts to offer bilingual education; only students whose parents signed a waiver to “opt in” had access to dual language classes.

More than 60 percent of voters backed that proposal in 1998 and the measure essentially put an end to many bilingual education programs in public schools across California.

But public sentiment has changed in the time since: dual-language immersion education and an understanding of its benefits have grown in public schools nationwide.

Around the nation, state legislators and school districts have pushed to graduate students who can speak, read, write, and think in more than one language. Since 2012, 23 states have adopted seals of biliteracy, an award granted to students who graduate high school able to read, write, and speak in two or more languages.

The federal government has also embraced multiliteracy in a bid to better prepare students for a global economy.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.