Soapbox

Prop. 58 will give school districts, parents more choice for bilingual education

A student writes in his journal in Spanish at Thomas Edison Language Institute in Sacramento. Proposition 58 would ease some restrictions on bilingual education imposed by Proposition 227.
A student writes in his journal in Spanish at Thomas Edison Language Institute in Sacramento. Proposition 58 would ease some restrictions on bilingual education imposed by Proposition 227. rbenton@sacbee.com

As a school principal, I support Proposition 58 because I see first-hand how hard parents work to make sure their kids can learn.

Proposition 58, the LEARN Initiative, would let all California students have the chance to succeed in school and be fully prepared for the opportunities in today’s global, multilingual economy.

Twenty years ago, with Proposition 227, California schools were handcuffed in the types of multilingual education tools we could use to teach our kids. Proposition 58 removes those handcuffs and gives our schools the flexibility we need to help students learn different languages in the way that works best for them.

California companies do business in countries all around the world. Having employees who know different languages to help promote our goods, services and technologies is becoming more important all the time.

Sure, you can go to Asia, Mexico or Europe and not have to speak the language to buy products. But selling what California businesses have to offer is a different matter, and proficiency in two or more languages is a big plus for potential employers.

According to the California Department of Education, however, only 425 out of the state’s 10,393 schools provide multilingual education programs.

Part of the reason for that is that Proposition 227 set up a series of cumbersome and complicated hoops that parents have to go through every year to request multilingual education classes in their local schools. For many hardworking parents who want more language options for their kids, the extra time and paperwork to make this annual request is simply too high a hurdle.

Every day I see how hungry the parents of English learners are to have their children become proficient in the language that drives our economy and culture. I know that’s what my Spanish-speaking parents wanted for their children. I also know that many parents of English speakers, often in affluent communities, are frustrated at the lack of options they have for their children to master languages that are important in a global society. Two-thirds of people worldwide speak more than one language, but in the United States, only 20 percent do.

Studies show there are multiple paths – including dual immersion programs – that are highly effective in helping children learn other languages.

Proposition 58 recognizes that, removes unnecessary barriers to learning, provides needed flexibility and lets parents and local schools take advantage of the most effective teaching methods possible – all while maintaining the state’s strict requirements for English proficiency.

That may be why educators such as the California Language Teachers Association and business groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce support Proposition 58. I know it’s why I do.

David Nevarez is principal at Harmon Johnson Elementary School in North Sacramento and wrote this viewpoint on behalf of the Yes on Proposition 58 campaign. He can be contacted at David.Nevarez@twinriversusd.org.

  Comments