Contact: Jesse Melgar/ Jesse.Melgar@sen.ca.gov
SACRAMENTO — Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Long Beach/Huntington Park) announced legislation today that would enable California’s public schools to provide multilingual instruction, granting more students access to valuable 21st Century language skills and giving parents more choice over their children’s education.
If passed, SB 1174, the Multilingual Education for a 21st Century Economy Act, would place an initiative before voters on the November 2016 ballot to repeal prohibitions to multilingual instruction passed through Proposition 227.
“In an increasingly interconnected global economy, we have to prepare our students for a future in which their success depends not only on an ability to understand diverse perspectives and cultures, but also on an ability to communicate in different languages,” said Senator Ricardo Lara. “Employers seek multilingual employees and all students – English and non-English learners alike – deserve access to this invaluable skill.”
In 1998 voters passed an initiative that required all instruction in public schools to be conducted in English. After its passage, the number of elementary age students enrolled in some form of multilingual program sharply declined from 39 percent in 1997 to 13 percent in 2001.
“It is critical for California to enable public schools to educate their students mulitlingually. Becoming biliterate will not only give students a valuable 21st Century skill, but also celebrate diversity and multiculturalism and recognize that languages are an asset to our nation and society,” said Shelly Spiegel-Coleman, executive director of Californians Together, a coalition of parents, teachers, education advocates and civil rights groups.
Multiple studies have shown that supporting children’s home language in early years is critical to later academic achievement, and results in better outcomes than English-only approaches. Additionally, researchers have also found that it is not just English learners who benefit from instruction in two languages – children from English-only homes enrolled in such programs had a distinct reading advantage over their peers in English-only programs.
“Extensive research has shown that students who build strong biliteracy skills (in English and one or more other languages) have higher academic success, a foundation for increased salary earnings, and stronger cognitive skills as they grow older,” said Jan Gustafson-Corea CEO of the California Association for Bilingual Education. “CABE supports Senator Lara’s bill as one that will promote educational equity and excellence in our schools and create a pathway for success for all students in the 21st century.”
“English will always remain the official language of California, but we cannot ignore the growing need to have a multilingual workforce,” said Lara.
Currently, public schools are not able to teach in any language besides English, unless parents have gone through a waiver process that most are not aware of. In California, most students will not receive any instruction in a foreign language until they are in high school. Research has shown that language acquisition is much more successful when it begins at an early age and is accompanied by many cognitive benefits.
Senator Ricardo Lara was elected in 2012 to represent the 33rd Senate District, which includes the cities and communities of Bell, Bell Gardens, Cudahy, Huntington Park, Lakewood, Long Beach, Lynwood, Maywood, Paramount, Signal Hill, South Gate, South Los Angeles, Vernon, and Walnut Park. For more information please visit this link: http://www.senate.ca.gov/lara.