Overview of Proposition 58

An overview of Proposition 58: English Proficiency. Multiligual. Education. Initiative Statute.

by D R Harward, staff writer

Proposition 58 repeals the requirement that in all public schools that English  must be taught in English.

Proposition 58 seeks to change public education law by repealing the Unz Initiative, also known as Prop 228, which changed the instruction of English to non-English speaking (a.k.a. ESL) pupils; The former strategy was to have segregated classrooms in which  Spanish was predominantly spoken and English was gradually acquired, until eventually ESL students would be transitioned to mainstream classrooms. In reality, many of those attending ESL classes would become stuck there for their entire public school careers. As a result, many ESL students were denied future access to college and employment.

Voter approval of Prop 228 in 1998 put into place a new framework based on the concept of language immersion in the classroom. Today, English learners are enrolled in an intensive year-long class that is taught bilingually and focused on teaching basic English-language skills. Following the introductory class, English learners are integrated into mainstream classrooms, which must be conducted entirely in English.

Here are some basics about Prop 58.

What is Prop 58?

Prop 58  seeks to  change sections of the Education Code by repealing changes made by Prop 228 and adds a few provisions regarding English language instruction.

What would it do?

According to the analysis by the Legislative Analyst, Prop 58 would remove restrictions to bilingual programs. It would also require school districts to respond to parental demands and would require school districts to “ask parents and other community members how English learners should be taught…” at least once per year.

It would eliminate the parental right to enroll their child in a school that offers  alternative English-language instruction, if not offered at the currently attended facility. It completely removes the ability for parents to obtain a waiver from participation in intensive language instruction classes.

It removes the option that parents currently have to file a lawsuit against a school official who willfully and repeatedly refuses to implement the ‘teach English in English’ provisions and holds them personally liable for fees and actual damages if the parent is successful in such a suit.

It also removes the current requirement of securing the approval of  at least 2/3 of the voting members of both houses of the state legislature to amend the statute.

It adds an option that will allow schools to establish programs that would provide a substantial portion of the curriculum in a language other than English.

Who would it affect?

The Legislative Analyst reports that 1.4 million students in California public schools would potentially be affected.

Who is for it?

This measure was sponsored by state senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) who has invested a little over $180,000 into the campaign. Other prominent supporters include the California Federation of Teachers, the SEIU and the California School Boards Association. The biggest contributor, Teacher and Service Employees PAC, have donated just over $1.2 million.

Who is against it?

The architect of proposition enacted into law in 1998, Ron Unz, is the most vocal opponent of the measure. Those opposed have not formed a PAC. The California Republican Party joins the San Francisco Chronicle and the Orange County Register in opposing this measure.

What does it cost?

The Legislative Analyst reports: “Fiscal Impact: No notable fiscal effect on school districts or state government.” However, the California Catholic Conference reports that:

According to the Assembly Appropriations Committee (which analyzed Senate Bill 1174), this proposal would result in one-time General Fund costs of approximately $115,000, ongoing costs of approximately $48,000, for the California Department of Education to revise guidance and oversight to ensure the state continues to meet federal requirements to provide certain services to English learners as a protected class.  These costs include staff training, technical support to the field and updating materials.”

A yes vote means:

You are in favor of repealing most of the the 1998 English in Public Schools Initiative, which requires that the English learners be taught in English. Instead you support allowing schools to decide how to teach English as they see fit.

A No vote means:

You do not wish to amend the Education Code and support the mandate requiring public schools to teach English to English learners in English.


Don’t miss the companion editorial on Prop 58, click here!

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