By Julie Santiago
Voting yes on Proposition 58 is a step toward a more progressive educational system with more opportunities for future Californians.
Prop. 58 is of particular interest to anyone whose first language wasn’t English and went to a public school.
Anyone who feels they lost the opportunity to learn literacy skills in their first language, whether it was Spanish or Mandarin, will now have a chance to vote for multilingual education for future students.
The California legislature has made it hard for its students to develop and benefit from bilingual teaching.
Instead of the state utilizing its already multilingual rich population and improving dual language teaching, most schools have been forced to teach English only.
While there are some multilingual schools in Southern California, they can sometimes be difficult to get into.
They work best with parent involvement, and many of them belong to wealthier communities.
Due to requirements and distances, not all of these schools are accessible to everyone.
In 1998, California voters passed Prop. 227, which requires public schools to teach English learning students in special classes that are taught in English only.
English learning students start off in a special class with their native language. Then they are placed into English classes for about a year to help these students immerse in the language and learn faster.
In the late 1990s to early 2000s, I was one of these English learners affected by Prop. 227. Even though I was born here in Los Angeles, Spanish was my first language.
I remember my mom pulling me to the side before school to tell me that my teachers wanted me to speak English.
She once looked at me with a serious face and told me,“You have to start speaking English. They don’t want you to answer them back in Spanish.”
It was hard for me, since I spent most of my time with my grandma and uncle who only spoke Spanish.
As an adult, I have now lost much of my fluency in Spanish.
It’s important to ask why students aren’t taught their native language until later in life. And when it is introduced, it is labeled as a foreign language even though it was their first language.
Fast forward to the present time: Eighteen years later, Senate Bill 1174, now known as Prop. 58, drafted by Senator Ricardo Lara and signed by governor Jerry Brown, meant to repeal Prop. 227, has emerged.
Ricardo Lara is from the city of Commerce and represents the 33rd district, which includes Bell Gardens, Vernon, South Gate and other nearby cities.
This November, California voters will get a chance to vote for Prop. 58 on multilingual education.
In our fast-growing competitive society it does not make much sense to choose to teach only one language and not another.
It’s becoming more apparent to equip future citizens and workers with more tools to succeed.
What some considered unnecessary at one time has now become more useful and, in some cases, needed.
Countries such as France, India and China have recognized this and have started teaching foreign languages to their children at an early age when it is most effective.
According to pewresearchcenter.org, learning a foreign language is a must in Europe. Many of these people are even trilingual by the time they graduate.
According to CNN, Spanish speaking is expected to decline among Latinos, while rising among non-hispanics.
The possible reasons for this are many. Many immigrant parents don’t have the funds to properly teach their children like other upper middle class acculturated families.
There also seems to be a trend where wealthy families hire Spanish speaking nannies to teach their children Spanish. They also hire tutors and can afford extra bilingual teaching.
Despite the obvious advantages to knowing more than one language, there’s also some reasons why Prop. 227 passed in the first place.
If Prop. 58 passes, educators will have to work hard and fund for more bilingual teacher training to ensure that California school districts can handle the challenges of multilingual education.
Many voters have been doubtful that multilingual education could work effectively. 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 because of poor teaching.
Some voters such as The English Language Advocates, a conservative national organization, believe English should be the primary language, and are worried that by passing SB 1174, other languages would dominate over English.
While these issues are valid and should be solved, voting for Prop. 58 is a step in the right direction. Education is and always will be a valuable investment.
It is not fair to deny students their first language or even keep them from being able to learn a new language because some people fear that other languages will dominate.
“We should all learn other languages. It is becoming more apparent that the U.S. should have a population with a higher rate of biliteracy and bilingualism. We have to tap into the enormous linguistic wealth that is already a part of this country. The current education system simply does not do this,” said Chair of Modern Languages Department, Norma Vega.
Vote yes on Prop. 58.