Multilingual education may come back to California

By Julie Santiago

Voters will get a chance to vote for SB 1174, a Senate bill put in place to bring back multilingual education in California on the November 2016 ballot.

Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1174 in 2014, which added the proposition to the November 2016 ballot.

If passed, this proposition will repeal much of Proposition 227, first passed in 1998 that has since put restrictions on multilingual teaching.

This prop went into effect around the time many millennials,who are now in college, were in or just beginning grade school. The ones particularly affected by this law were English as a Second Language learners who are also known as ESL students. “I was never told to not speak Spanish, but I was told to try my best to say everything I could in English,” former ELAN and ESL student Gabriela Martinez said.

She attended Nimitz Middle School in Huntington Park at the time. Martinez immigrated with her family in 2005 when she was nine years old.

SB 1174, which is supported by Senator Ricardo Lara will allow public schools to decide whether they want to have multilingual instruction. Currently, Prop 227 requires ESL students start in a special class with their first language and are pushed to classes that are only taught in English in usually no more than a year. Prop 227 also requires government to supply $50 million for English classes over the next ten years. Those who attend the classes must promise to tutor ESL students. People who plan to teach English as a second Language classes can benefit from this.

The purpose of Prop 227 was to educate ESL students in a fast one-year program that would help them learn English faster through immersion and by limiting the use of non-English languages in public schools, but it was controversial.

According to national media `many people believed it was a political move to counter its Latino majority Spanish-speaking problem by assimilating them and therefore doing away with their culture.

Today, according to the US Census 2010, Latinos are the majority ethnic group of California. The US Census also projects that the number of Spanish speakers is expected to rise, due to new Latino immigrants.

However, Hispanic Research at the Pew Research Center believe that the number of Hispanic Spanish speakers will drop by 2020 and the number of non-Hispanic Spanish speakers will rise. Researchers believe this is due to third-generation Hispanics not speaking Spanish at home because they grew up in a place where speaking Spanish is just not necessary.

Studies show that many cultures who immigrate to another country lose their native language by the third generation. Immigrants assimilate and over the years, the generations after know less of their native language, especially by the third generation.

If SB 1174 is passed and schools choose to teach in Spanish and are successful in bilingual teaching, then the number of Spanish speakers who lose their native Spanish language will be less.“Repealing 227 can help, but only if we confront the challenges,”  Chair of the Modern Languages Department Norma Vega said.

“The proper implementation of a bilingual program,such as dual immersion, is pivotal. If California is to develop school districts with dual immersion programs, for example, the state will have to invest in heritage languages and teacher-training,” Vega said.

This would be especially beneficial for heritage speakers.

Heritage speakers are those who are raised by Spanish speakers and speak Spanish but don’t necessarily read, write or speak it at an academic level.

Heritage speakers will have a chance to become academically fluent in their ethnic language as well as English.

“California has the largest economy in the country, and in order to keep climbing, its workforce needs to be fully prepared with the appropriate skill sets,” Senator Ricardo Lara who is sponsoring the Senate Bill, said.

Other countries all over the world like France, India and China teach foreign languages in schools to their students at an early age.

A study conducted by neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that elderly Spanish-English bilinguals were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Some voters  are doubtful of SB 1174 because of the money it takes to make multilingual education successful. Multilingual education is expensive and not every teacher is qualified to teach bilingual classes.

Before Prop 227 many people graduated with little knowledge of the English language, due to poor instruction.

Some voters believe English proficiency should be the primary objective and are worried that by passing SB 1174, other languages would dominate over English. English Language Advocates are amongst the bill’s critics. ELA is a national organization that focuses on making English the official language at all levels of government.

Ron Unz, former governor candidate who first drafted and proposed Prop 227, said the academic performance of over a million immigrant students roughly doubled in the four years following the passage of Proposition 227.

If 1174 passes, voters will have to be assured that California school districts can handle the challenges of multilingual education.

Heritage speakers are those who are raised by Spanish speakers and speak Spanish but don’t necessarily read, write or speak it at an academic level. Heritage speakers will have a chance to become academically fluent in their ethnic language as well as English.“California has the largest economy in the country, and in order to keep climbing, its workforce needs to be fully prepared with the appropriate skill sets,” Senator Ricardo Lara who is sponsoring the Senate Bill, said.

Other countries all over the world like France, India and China teach foreign languages in schools to their students at an early age.

A study conducted by neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that elderly Spanish-English bilinguals were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. The higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Some voters  are doubtful of SB 1174 because of the money it takes to make multilingual education successful. Multilingual education is expensive and not every teacher is qualified to teach bilingual classes.

Before Prop 227 many people graduated with little knowledge of the English language, due to poor instruction.

Some voters believe English proficiency should be the primary objective and are worried that by passing SB 1174, other languages would dominate over English. English Language Advocates are amongst the bill’s critics. ELA is a national organization that focuses on making English the official language at all levels of government.

Ron Unz, former governor candidate who first drafted and proposed Prop 227, said the academic performance of over a million immigrant students roughly doubled in the four years following the passage of Proposition 227.

If 1174 passes, voters will have to be assured that California school districts can handle the challenges of multilingual education.

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