California senator proposes restoring bilingual education

SACRAMENTO -- Sixteen years after California voters approved an initiative requiring public school instruction in English, state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced a measure Thursday to repeal the requirement of Proposition 227.

Lara’s proposal would place an initiative on the ballot that would give parents a choice to have their children receive bilingual education.

“English will always remain the official language of California, but we cannot ignore the growing need to have a multilingual workforce,” Lara said.

He said the global economy requires those who graduate from school to be able to communicate in multiple languages. “Employers seek multilingual employees and all students — English and non-English learners alike — deserve access to this invaluable skill,” Lara added.

The percentage of elementary school-age students enrolled in some form of multilingual program declined from 39% in 1997, the year before the ballot measure, to 13% in 2001, Lara said.

SB 1174 is supported by groups including the California Assn. for Bilingual Education and Californians Together, a coalition of parents, teachers, education advocates and civil rights groups.

“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.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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