No on Prop 58-What We are Not Being Told

Proposition 58, the Non-English Languages Allowed in Public Education initiative will not do as advertised and therefore does not deserve voter support.

by Don Harward, Op-Ed

During this final month before our national November elections, the newly-christened Ostentatious October, we have come to expect to be inundated by deceptive ads and half-truths-both for and against, particular ballot measures and candidates. But Proposition 58 is a little sneakier than most in masking its actual effects.

When a public school employee, or almost any government employee, decides to ignore the law (regarding civil matters) most of the time there is almost no publicly available recourse.

This is due, primarily to laws that provide personal indemnity for  persons when undertaking business on behalf of the government . In many cases these shield laws make sense–imagine how hard it would be to find someone to work at the DMV if customers could sue the clerks personally because of a missed important appointment that was due to a long wait in line. Sometimes such laws are abused, such as when a school teacher and principal decide to force your average American child to attend a class that teaches American History entirely in Korean, as an extreme example. In 1998, Prop 228 (which mandated that public schools must teach English in English) was enacted with teeth–if a school official intentionally and repeatedly refused to abide by the new rules, then they would bear personal liability for any lawsuit bought by parents under the section.

Prop 58 totally removes consequences for school employees and school board members for non-compliance with the section. 

Another reason that I am voting No on Prop 58 is that I am sick and tired of educators using children as test subjects in failed experiment after failed experiment. That is precisely what Prop 58 is designed to do–it flings the doors open to a plethora of ‘language acquisition programs’ regardless of whether they meet any standards regarding their effectiveness at all. The possibility of becoming the subject of experiment is not limited to only immigrant children, all children in public schools will be at risk if Prop 58 is passed. If it is, there is a possibility that your native-born all-American child, who speaks only English, will find themselves struggling in a class because it is being taught in Spanish or Mandarin. In fact, the L.A.U.S.D. already offers such dual language immersion classes in those languages and in Korean too!

An analysis of the text reveals three  results unmentioned in the official voting guide:

  1. The changes to section 300 et seq, of the Education code with respect to what language is to be used, exclusively, to conduct instruction in publicly funded elementary (and secondary) schools within the state are completely moot due to the unchanged provisions of section 30 of the code; which unequivocally  states
“§30. English shall be the basic language of instruction in all schools.”
  1.  It completely eliminates the protections in section 311 of the Code, which provides the parent with the ability to get a waiver under certain circumstances and with “prior written and informed consent”. Prop 58 will also do away with the parental right to have their child , who must first demonstrate fluency in English, attend a school that offers an alternative language-acquisition program.  Prop 58 would instead install a (undefined), “parent and community engagement process required for the development of a local control and accountability plan…”
    Which means that schools can use a take-home survey form to solicit suggestions from parents and then ignore those suggestions completely when actually writing their yearly plan, that they now almost never follow anyway. 
  2.   Prop 58 removes a provision in the Ed Code that allows parents to demand enforcement via lawsuit and for the punishment of school personnel by making them personally liable for damages and attorney’s fees if a

“school child has been denied the option of an English language instructional curriculum in public school, the child’s parent or legal guardian shall have legal standing to sue for enforcement of the provisions of this statute, and if successful shall be awarded normal and customary attorney’s fees and actual damages, but not punitive or consequential damages.”

Prop 58 also removes an even rarer consequence for not implementing its provisions:

“Any school board member or other elected official or public school teacher or administrator who willfully and repeatedly refuses to implement the terms of this statute…may be held personally liable for fees and actual damages by the child’s parents”

It is no wonder that teachers, their unions, administrators and school boards are behind an initiative that would wipe these parent protections off the books.

Before letting our childrens’ educators off the hook, it would behoove us to consider why such restrictions and consequences were first put into place, particularly because they were put there by the public via the initiative process. One reason is that a number of schools had completely disregarded the aforementioned section 30 of the Ed Code, which requires that all public school classrooms  to be conducted in English. Instead many California school districts continued to warehouse their immigrant students in chronically segregated schools, where English as a Second Language (” ESL”) kids were taught in  classrooms that were conducted almost exclusively in Spanish, thereby depriving them of any meaningful opportunity to master the English language. This denied to them the ability to pursue a higher education or to get a higher paying job. The lack of resources available to ESL students was on par with those that spawned the Brown v Board of Education case that ended segregation based on skin color, but segregation based on what language was spoken at home continued until 1999 in California.

Prop 58 is merely a ploy to remove certain restrictions and consequences put into place to protect against the return to a system that harmful to those it was supposed to assist. Read the actual text of Prop 58 for yourself and vote NO on 58.

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