Capitol Alert

California teachers union to push bilingual education proposition

Sen. Ricardo Lara reflects on benefits of his bilingualism

An advocate of bilingual education who went through it himself, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is pursuing Proposition 58 this fall that would reverse a 1998 California law mandating English-only instruction for English learners.
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An advocate of bilingual education who went through it himself, Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, is pursuing Proposition 58 this fall that would reverse a 1998 California law mandating English-only instruction for English learners.

The California Teachers Association is on board with Proposition 58, the initiative to roll back a nearly two-decade-old limit on bilingual education in the state according to its chief proponent, state Sen. Ricardo Lara.

“What we’re happy to announce is that CTA is actually gonna put this right along in terms of their priority for Prop 55,” an education and health care tax measure that the union has already poured millions of dollars into, Lara, D-Bell Gardens, told The Sacramento Bee editorial board on Thursday.

CTA spokesman Claudia Briggs later said that Proposition 58 is one of three ballot measures this election that the union has endorsed and it will communicate that to its 325,000 members. The organization also gave $500,000 to the campaign on Aug. 11, four times what it had previously raised. But she said the union’s effort for Proposition 55 will be considerably larger.

“We are certainly supporters of the (bilingual education) campaign,” Briggs said. “It’s still early, so chances are we may contribute more.”

The initiative would reverse portions of 1998’s Proposition 227, which mandated that English learners be taught in English only, rather than in the bilingual programs long favored by many educators. Lara, a Democrat from Bell Gardens, has argued the law put a “handcuff” on multilingual education in California as a globalizing economy made knowing two or more languages a valuable asset.

Lara said he made no promises to the union on how the law would be implemented to secure their support. He figured that many of the language teachers in the organization felt a similarly “strong personal, emotional reaction to Proposition 227” as him, a child of immigrants who went through bilingual education growing up and saw the English-only mandate as a racist policy.

Lara added that he did not know what CTA’s efforts on behalf of Proposition 58 would entail, “but I was very pleased to see that they are going to make this a priority for the upcoming election as well.”

Editor’s note: This post was updated to reflect clarifying comments from CTA.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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