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California Legislature Creates Special Committee for ELL Issues

The California State Senate has added a new "select committee" to its roster of legislative panels and this one will focus exclusively on matters related to the state's 1.5 million English learners.

The Senate Select Committee on English Learners will be chaired by state Sen. Alex Padilla, a Democrat from Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley. In announcing the new committee, Sen. Padilla highlighted grim statistics that underscore the need for California policymakers to focus intently on this group of students:

• 89% of the state's ELLs do not reach English proficiency annually;

• 49% do not graduate from high school;

• 87% do not go to college; and

• 60% come from poor families.

This panel's creation comes soon after Tom Torlakson, the state schools chief, re-constituted a unit dedicated to ELL issues within the state department of education.

In California, select committees typically host public hearings and provide a forum to discuss policy issues. Sometimes they conduct investigations and write reports. Their impact usually has a lot to do with the chairperson and how much political juice that individual has. Sen. Padilla has already introduced three pieces of legislation this session that aim to improve academic outcomes for ELLs, especially those long-term English learners who languish for years.

The committee's first hearing will be held March 28 in Sacramento.

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