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Calif. Senate Committee Recommends Repealing English-Only Instructional Rule

A proposal to change a requirement for California schools that instruction take place exclusively in English passed out of the Senate education committee on April 30. The legislation, Senate Bill 1174, authored by Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara, would change parts of Proposition 227 passed by Golden State voters in 1998, if voters approved at the ballot box in 2016.

Proposition 227 was passed by 61 percent of state voters 16 years ago. It provided certain waivers for students who already knew English or had special needs, and required an annual appropriation of $50 million for 10 years to support English tutoring in communities. The man behind the measure, former GOP gubernatorial Ron Unz, said at the time that Latino parents in the state wanted their children to learn English in school. But Proposition 227 has previously been subject to an (unsuccessful) court challenge from the California Teachers Association, and it's been controversial in California for some time. 

Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Democrat and the author of Senate Bill 1174, said in an April 30 statement that Proposition 227 no longer fits in today's world, when the demand for more linguistically skilled workers is increasing. His bill is called the California Ed.G.E. (or "Education for a Global Economy") Initiative, and it would allow school districts, county offices of education, and parents to determine the best language instruction methods for students. 

"This is about giving our students and state the educational and economic edge. Employers across all sectors are increasingly citing the need for multilingual and multiliterate employees to conduct business," he said. 

Next, according to Lara, the bill will be heard in the Senate Appropriations Committee. One legislator, Sen. Mark Wyland, a Republican, didn't vote on the bill in committee but expressed concerns that Lara's bill will hurt students' ability to perform on tests, according to the Los Angeles Times.

You can watch a video of Lara talking about his legislation below—at one point he says, "The popularity of dual-immersion programs continues to increase." Lara also stressed that the bill would benefit all California students. 

For more background, see my colleague Katie Ash's recent story on SB 1174.

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