English-Language Learners

Ron Unz, Architect of California’s Proposition 227, Running for U.S. Senate

By Corey Mitchell — April 20, 2016 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Ronald Unz, the man behind California’s long-standing restrictions on bilingual education, is running for U.S. Senate in the Golden State.

But he’s aiming for defeat, not victory.

Unz, a Republican, acknowledges that he’s a longshot in the crowded race to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.

The businessman and political activist is running for the Senate to raise awareness about, and hopefully mount opposition to, a November ballot proposal that would largely overturn Proposition 227, the 1998 initiative that nearly dismantled bilingual education in California.

Ushered in with voter approval, the statute restricted the availability of bilingual education for English-learner students in favor of English-only immersion programs. California voters will have a chance to repeal the law in November.

On his personal blog, Unz wrote that running for statewide office was his best option to rally support to keep it intact.

“After considering various options, I decided that becoming a statewide candidate myself was the probably the best means of effectively focusing public attention on this repeal effort and defeating it,” he wrote.

The “legislative ballot measure up for a vote this November aims to undo all that progress and re-establish the disastrously unsuccessful system of Spanish-almost-only ‘bilingual education’ in California public schools,” Unz wrote on his blog.

But much has changed since Unz sponsored and financed the “English in Public Schools” campaign.

Enthusiasm and demand for multilingualism has grown nationally and in California, which educates about 1.5 million English-learners. The state is also the birthplace of the seal of biliteracy, a national movement to recognize and honor high school graduates who demonstrate fluency in two or more languages.

In California and elsewhere, researchers have touted the benefits of bilingual education for English-learners and native-English speakers alike.

Test results have also shown that states, such as California, where voters decided to replace bilingual education with structured English immersion as the default method for teaching ELLs, have produced less-than-stellar results.

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