Kindergartener Maximilian Krendzelak answers teacher Marisol Alarcon at River Glen, a dual-immersion K-8 school in San Jose. Students learn primarily in Spanish in the early grades. Photo: Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group
California’s Proposition 58, which promises to “ensure all students can achieve English proficiency as soon as possible,” is leading in the polls — until voters realize it would bring back bilingual education, reports Sharon Noguchi in the San Jose Mercury News.
Sixty-nine percent of likely voters backed Proposition 58 when read the ballot title and summary, according to the online Field-IGS Poll.
When pollsters revealed that the “English proficiency multilingual education” initiative would repeal key portions of Proposition 227, which limited bilingual education, 30 percent said they’d vote yes, 51 percent were opposed and 19 percent undecided.
In 1998, Proposition 227 passed with 61 percent support at the polls. It required that English Learners be taught primarily in English, unless their parents sign waivers requesting bilingual education.
Without any context, “people see the “English proficiency” label and think that’s what the initiative supports, said Jack Citrin, director of the UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, a partner in the poll with the Field Research Corp. “When you tell them it repeals a key portion of Proposition 227, also intended to create English proficiency, they change their tune,” Citrin said.
I’m not sure how much will change if Proposition 58 passes. Bilingual ed hasn’t vanished: Dual immersion is popular, especially with middle-class English-speaking parents.
Students could be placed in bilingual classes without parental waivers, but parents are supposed to be able to get English instruction on demand.
In the pre-227 days, bilingual ed was done badly much of the time: Spanish-speaking aides taught the neediest kids (there weren’t enough bilingual teachers), the curriculum was dumbed down and expectations were low. Nobody wants to go back to that.