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Proposal to Restore Bilingual Education in California Advances

A bill that would give California voters a chance to repeal the state's restrictions on bilingual education was approved Tuesday by the state Senate and moves next to the state Assembly.

The legislation, authored by Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara, would place a measure on the 2016 ballot asking voters to overturn Proposition 227, the 1998 ballot measure that severely restricted the availability of bilingual education for the state's English-language learners.

Though Prop. 227 didn't ban bilingual education, it had the near effect of doing so, as most school districts in the state either eliminated or scaled back that model in favor of an English-immersion approach to teaching ELLs.

Lara's bill is one among several signals in the last couple of years that the polarized debate around language instruction in California has changed dramatically in the years since Prop. 227 was passed. Dual-language programs in the state are expanding, and three years ago, California became the first state to create a seal of biliteracy—a special distinction for high school students who can demonstrate fluency in two or more languages.

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