Bilingual education in California suffered a major blow when Proposition 227 passed nearly 20 years ago.

Proposition 58 will fix Prop. 227’s mistakes. The measure proposes access and equity to bilingual education programs for all students in California, both those who enter public schools needing to learn English, and English-only speaking students who want to learn a second language. If the measure passes in November, more students will graduate bilingual and be much better equipped to compete in the global economy.

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Prop. 58 will restore local control to our schools and provide parents a voice and equity in access to bilingual programs. Under Prop. 227, if parents of English-learners choose to have their children participate in a bilingual program, they’re required to annually sign a waiver, a process that makes the choice harder for many parents whose first language is not English and who are often new arrivals to this country. Prop. 58 would eliminate the need for waivers and restore equal access to such rich bilingual education programs.

Biliteracy is an asset, and in San Diego County alone we have seen the rise of dual-immersion and dual-language programs in our K-12 schools. In fact, the San Diego County Office of Education has been a leader in the state in promoting dual-language education programs and developing key resources for schools to develop dual-language programs. The programs, however, are mostly in communities where students are majority English speakers, and where parents know the cognitive and world value of biliteracy.

Prop. 58 would allow all families the same access to bilingual education, opening the door to more English-learners who can become proficient in English and also continue to develop their native languages.

To promote biliteracy and its value, California was the first state in the nation to adopt a State Seal of Biliteracy Award for high school graduates who demonstrate competencies in English and another language. More than 30,000 students in the state received the seal this year, and on average approximately 42 percent receiving the seal were former English-learners. With the passage of Prop. 58, we could see an increase in this number.

Many opponents to Prop. 58 believe that by providing access to bilingual education to everyone, English-learners will not be able to learn English as well. But Prop. 58 actually maintains provisions from Prop. 227 that help ensure English-learners make progress toward learning English.

Research has shown that English-only programs under Prop. 227 have done little to decrease the performance gap between English-learners and native English speakers. In fact, even after 10 years in California schools, an English-learner has less than a 40 percent chance of being considered proficient in English. Prop. 58 would repeal the outdated elements of Prop. 227 and restore the ability of local school districts, in consultation with parents, to offer bilingual education programs for all students.

Research indicates clearly that dual-language education programs improve student achievement, and that students in dual-language programs outperform English-only students. Locally, you can look at Sherman Elementary School and the Chula Vista Learning Community Charter as examples of schools that serve large numbers of English-learners in rich schoolwide bilingual programs. As a result, test scores at those schools continue to improve.

The San Diego Unified School District recently adopted a resolution supporting Prop. 58 – more evidence that the time has come to embrace the value of biliteracy and to support policies that will promote these quality programs in our schools and communities.

Karen Cadiero-Kaplan is a professor of dual language and English-learner education and the legislative director of the California Association for Bilingual Education. Cadiero-Kaplan’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.

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