Educators: parents will drive new bilingual education growth

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

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Supporters of Proposition 58, the successful ballot initiative to overturn bilingual education limits in California, said more bilingual programs in public schools would better prepare students for future careers.

Well, the changes aren’t moving so fast.

“We think that the changes you’re going to see from this probably are largely going to come in next school year,” said Abe Hajela, an education consultant with Capitol Advisors Group.

Prop. 58 goes into effect in July of this year. Among other things, schools no longer will be required to have parents sign a waiver for their kids to enroll in bilingual programs and district officials will no longer be limited to the amount of native language instructors use to help English learners. 

School administrators are preparing to market bilingual education to parents in order to keep students in existing programs and gradually grow them.

New programs, Hajela and others said, will not be driven solely by the teachers and administrators who were Prop. 58’s biggest backers but by parents.

The increasing role of parents in this policy change comes as state education leaders have given parents a greater role in school district policy by building parent input into school district budgeting reforms known as Local Control Funding Formula.

“There have been several initiatives to try to engage communities and parents in the education of their kids, I think this is another step in that direction,” Hajela said.

In Azusa, school officials are preparing to explain the benefits of bilingual programs to parents at half dozen neighborhood meetings that begin later this month.

The Azusa school district has three existing dual immersion programs. But after 20 years of English-only as the default instruction method, many parents in the predominately Latino community do not want bilingual programs for their kids.

“They’ve had a very difficult trek and they want their kids to learn English as quickly as possible, they’ll take care of Spanish in the home,” said Azusa Unified Assistant Superintendent Arturo Ortega.

It’s all about parent choice, Ortega said, and he and other school officials plan to give parents information about the benefits of bilingualism and how such programs can help English learners.

The California Department of Education plans to help school districts sort through the new bilingual education changes by issuing guidelines in the coming months. The department also plans a March workshop for school district bilingual education coordinators.