Bilingual education will be back on California voters’ ballots come November 2016, due to a piece of legislation that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Sunday.
The new law will give voters a chance to overturn a 16-year-old state law that has severely restricted the use of bilingual education in California’s public schools. Right now, English-only instruction is the predominant approach used by California public schools to educate the state’s 1.4 million English-language learners.
In a statement, the bill’s sponsor, Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, said multilingual instruction will improve the state’s educational system.
“Children who participate in multilingual immersion programs not only outperform their peers in the long run, they also have higher earning potential when they enter the workforce,” he said.
The 1998 law that drastically reduced the use of bilingual education programs was also the result of a ballot measure, Proposition 227. While not an outright ban on bilingual education, the voter-approved measure almost eliminated it from public schools. Most school districts either got rid of bilingual education entirely or restricted it to serve only students whose parents sought special waivers to keep their children in bilingual programs.
In an Education Week article about the bill, experts said that the debate will be much different this time around. Voters in California are now more comfortable with having a multilingual population, they said.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Learning the Language blog.