AirTalk for May 1, 2014

Are dual-language programs vital for future student success? Calif. lawmakers rethink old law

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Students work together in teacher Daisy Moran's second-grade bilingual class during summer school at Mozart School July 2, 2003 in Chicago, Illinois.

Fifteen years after California voters approved a bill that made bilingual education in public schools practically illegal, lawmakers are taking a second look.

Enacted in 1998, Proposition 227 changed the way that students with limited English proficiency are taught, immersing them in English only curricula, and making dual-language programs more cumbersome and unpractical.

New efforts to address educational and demographic changes since then led the California Senate Education Committee to recommend a bill to repeal Prop 227 Wednesday. The proposal would restore bilingual education programs in the state and could make the 2016 ballot.

Dual language immersion programs have flourished in California in the decade and a half since Prop 227 became law, raising doubts that the assertions made by proponents of the bill, that bilingual education would be detrimental to California students, were well-founded.

Proponents of English-only learning environments claim that students who are distracted by more than one language do not master either language of study. Supporters of bilingual education point to the success of dual-language programs and see increased globalization as just one reason why all California students should learn more than one language.

Does learning more than one language put an unnecessary burden on students?  Should students for whom English is a second-language focus solely on mastering it? Are dual-language programs better-preparing California students for the future?

Guest:

Senator Ricardo Lara, (D-Bell Gardens), California State Senator for the 33rd District, author of SB 1147, which would put a measure on the ballot overturning Prop. 227, which limits public school instruction to English-only

Karin Davenport, Director of Communications, U.S.ENGLISH, the nation's oldest, largest citizens' action group dedicated to preserving the unifying role of the English language in the US


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