Proposition 58 will repeal the most limiting parts of Proposition 227 of 1998, which severely restricted opportunities for multilingual education in California. It will free schools to offer all children access to the educational program they and their parents find best for them, regardless of the primary language spoken in the home.
The research findings about language acquisition that prompted the League to oppose Prop 227 almost 20 years ago are even stronger now. The advantages to being multilingual, both academically and economically, are even more clearly defined than they were in 1998.
- Language transfers. A strong base in the primary language leads to more rapid advancement in the secondary language for any student.
- Children with a strong primary language base learn a second language more easily and faster at a young age.
- Children who speak a language other than English at home usually do not have an opportunity to move past a conversational level of skill in that language without assistance.
- There are other academic advantages to being able to think bilingually; it offers an alternative way to thinking and addressing problems.
- Once a child is confident of his or her ability to master a second language, learning an additional language becomes easier.
- In a 21st century economy, being fluently multilingual with the ability to read, write and communicate at an academic level is a great advantage to anyone.
Proposition 58 allows, but it does not mandate any school to offer any of a wide range of language programs to any student and their parents. And it still allows the family to accept or reject any program that is offered. This is important to remember, as some opposing the proposition will say it will lead to mandatory programs for students whose home language is not English. It will only remove the restrictive language currently in law and allow an opportunity for various approaches to gaining English proficiency while maintaining or gaining mastery of another language.