California voters bring back bilingual education in a big win for students

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By William Moreno

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California educators, parents, and allies are celebrating a big win in the fight to bring bilingual education back to their state. Also known as the LEARN ballot initiative, Prop 58 reverses the misguided requirement that English language learners (ELL) be taught only in English. The passage of Prop 58 is a victory for all students, say supporters, since it gives school leaders in school districts across the state the opportunity to implement academic language programs tailored to their student’s needs.

Prop 58 owes its passage to the tens of thousands of educators, parents, and allies who mobilized throughout the state to knock on doors, call neighbors, and help get voters to the polls. As a result of the coalition’s efforts, Proposition 58 was approved by more than 73 percent of voters, nearly 10 million voters in total.

“After 18 years, a wrong has been made right for English learners across the state and educators who have students’ best interest at heart led the effort,” says Theresa Montaño, Vice President of CTA, and a professor of Chicano studies at California State University Northridge.

“Now California’s students will be in a better position to compete with international students who are multilingual and multicultural,” echoes Veronica Miranda Pinkney, Chair of CTA’s Language Committee and San Jose Unified School District educator. “English-speaking students also benefit from the passage of Proposition 58. They will have the opportunity to learn a language other than English, as well.”

Montaño adds, “This is a win not only for California, but for the country too. About 20 percent of the country’s English learners are in our state and will be equipped to meet the economic needs of tomorrow’s workforce.”

Passage of Prop 58 is not the only win in the El Dorado state, legislators also approved a landmark ethnic studies bill giving California a leading voice in the future of public education as the country grows more diverse. “We’re stronger when we recognize and support the diversity of our students,” affirms Montaño.

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